BIG AS LIFE by Rand Richards Cooper


Stories About Men
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 A second collection from Cooper (The Last to Go, 1988), this comprised of 17 carefully crafted, sometimes memorable, stories of male angst and of the small consolations achieved through accepting the passage of time. The volume begins with ``Exit 99,'' about a man on his way home who takes the titled exit and gambles away his money: ``Outside you're shocked to find it's still light; it seems like weeks have gone by.'' That small shock of recognition--the book's motif--causes the man to buy some flowers to give his wife, providing the story with a satisfying end. ``Kerenyaga'' describes an African in the US who flunks out of school and is forced to live on the streets--one result being a vivid survey through foreign eyes of what America has become. Conversely, ``Magendo Men'' takes a 20-ish American teacher and sends him to Africa, where he observes exiles, expatriates, and locals, every one of them corrupt. The remaining stories stay closer to home: Several concern children or adolescents who make it through crises--from ten-year- old Andy Hatter, away at summer camp, to an alumnus who's determined when his parents pick him up to ``take charge and make them listen.'' In ``Laughing in the Dark'' and ``The Prick of the Season,'' 17-year-olds battle teen angst, one in a quest to get past his runaway sister's disappearance, the other determined to lose his virginity. Altogether the best stories here are ``Big as Life,'' about a father who has lied to his son about knowing Larry Bird; ``The Cobbler's Kid,'' about a WW II vet, a widower, who returns to Germany and learns through a rebellious young woman to live again; and ``Going the Distance,'' about a man who leaves his home of 44 years to live near his son, a move that forces him to see his own aging body as much diminished. There are no explosions here, but neither are there any flops.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-385-31422-1
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995