SILENT RETREATS by Philip F. Deaver


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One of Deaver's stories, and one of his best, ""Arcola Gifts,"" is included in this year's O. Henry collection (p. 216). But just as assuredly could ""Geneseo"" or ""Rosie"" have taken its place. Writing with a frank list toward the sentimental, the tiredly sad, and with a plasticity of middlebrow poetry that recalls Saul Bellow's greatest character, Henderson (of Henderson the Rain King), Deaver constructs his stories out of midlife crisis mostly: men who are usually divorced with children, working travellers, occasional lovers, and all badly in need of consolation. A group of stories revolves around a declining lawyer named Skidmore, a pro bono type running from an Indian reservation practice that consisted (to him) mostly of women and failure. But in ""Rosie,"" the situation is less outlandish: the sexual currents running (and Deaver makes you feel they're constitutional) within the world of the corporate drudge, a type that fiction rarely focuses on, but that Deaver has down cold. ""Arcola Girls"" is reminiscence á la Peter Taylor--girls as group mystery--and ""Geneseo"" (perhaps the best thing here) a story about a man accompanying a lover to the failing commune she lived in once, to reclaim her little girl. It's a story of unlikelihood, the saddest nostalgia, yet of a true and strange independence--a triumph. A noteworthy introduction.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0820330663
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia Press