NO LIE LIKE LOVE: Stories by Paul Rawlins


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The newest Flannery O'Connor Award winner consists of 11 mostly compelling stories, many of which appeared previously in literary magazines. Comfortable with a variety of voices, Rawlins unifies his debut collection thematically: Men facing change is the larger subject, handled here with great subtlety. Farthest afield are two stories set in South Africa: ""The Matter of These Hours"" is a haunting tale of two teens who seek out a faith healer because one of them is HIV-positive; in ""Slangfontein,"" a young man of Afrikaner descent decides to revive the family farm after his father's rejection of life on the veldt. The title piece also involves rejection of one type of life for another--a college-bound kid in Washington State has no plans to return to the family farm (as his father hopes), to his podunk town, or to his childhood girlfriend. Rawlins's middle-aged men are on the downside of their dreams. The self-important financier in the hyperbolic ""Big Where I Come From"" condescends to the local Iowans in his hometown until he finds himself suddenly bankrupt. ""Big Texas,"" a fine story reminiscent of the novels of Dan Jenkins, concerns two buddies recovering from their vanished glories, one a former pro football player with a blown-out knee, the other his college drinking pal crippled in a ski accident. The search for psychic and spiritual renewal takes two friends out into the Utah desert after they are fired from their jobs as machinists (""Good for What Ails You""). In ""Kokopelli,"" a Stanford prof, suffering from a debilitating and mysterious illness, is comforted by his former student who steers him towards Native American spirits. The most dramatic, visceral piece is ""August--Staying Cool,"" a junkie's memoir of kicking his habit during a long, hot summer. A strong debut, but with plenty of room to grow.

Pub Date: Dec. 2nd, 1996
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia