MAN WITHOUT MEMORY by Richard Burgin


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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