MAN WITHOUT MEMORY by Richard Burgin

MAN WITHOUT MEMORY

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

An Illinois Short Fiction title (see Holladay, McGraw, and Targan below) that's by turns absurdist and minimalist: of the nine stories here, most of which involve a male's obsession with ennui and disorientation, there are one or two notables among others that are merely programmatic. ""The Victims"" (a Pushcart Prize story) is the book's best--the narrator, a professor who writes (not unusual here), describes his friendship with a talented friend--overly attached to his mother--who deteriorates by slow turns. The title piece--also successful--starts as an essay about men who ""have no sense of either their history or their future,"" then becomes an account of the narrator's list-keeping fetish that drives away his girlfriend; in the workmanlike ""Constitution Day,"" a stodgy narrator gets to know his prodigal brother while visiting Philadelphia; and ""Notes on Mrs. Slaughter"" (another Pushcart) concerns a narrator staying with a woman who believes that the Mafia is out to get her: there's lots of flat description and a few tepid Camus-like gestures before the thing mercifully stops after having infected the narrator with Mrs. Slaughter's paranoia. Of the others, ""New City,"" about a peripatetic professor who wanders the streets taking journal notes and brings home a prostitute but decides not to do anything with her, wanders aimlessly itself; ""The Opposite Girl,"" who ""always did the opposite of what people expected,"" lives a minimalist life in N.Y.C. and thinks about AIDS; and the unexceptional ""Aerialist"" moves its narrator from a dump to a high rise with a view, and his life, centered on a woman he wants to know better, takes a cosmic-religious slant. Much that's derivative or merely unexceptional, but ""The Victims"" is a powerful, trenchant story, and a couple of others hold their own.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1989
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press