PRIVATE FAME by Richard Burgin


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 Like Man Without Memory, Burgin's recent Illinois Short Fiction Series collection (1989), these 11 stories, often absurdist and minimalist, involve a male who's disoriented or obsessed, though here the author includes several women as well. The best are lively, but many read like leftovers. ``Psycho in Buckingham Palace'' is the story of a friendship from childhood through college. The narrator gets involved with Lester, or ``Psycho,'' and, much later, with his sister, whom Psycho lives with. The narrator goes to law school, while Lester, downward-bound, drives a cab, goes off the edge, and steals some money. ``Song of the Earth'' is a study of a manipulative relationship between Ray, a journalist, and influential conductor Perry. The two play a cat-and-mouse game, Ray after Perry's influence, Perry after Ray's bod, and finally Ray cynically allows himself to be seduced in an apt conclusion. In ``The Horror Age,'' a father arranges jobs and apartments for his daughter, the narrator, ``the kind of person who always sees signs in everything.'' The daughter at last confronts her father about childhood sexual abuse (in the wake of her mother's desertion) in an ending that is suitably tense but a little flimsy. Of the rest, ``The Spirit of New York'' is about a man who jumps out to ``scare people, usually women,'' but its sense of menace is a little too easily come by; in ``From the Diary of Gene Mays,'' a narrator who is ``vertically cohabiting'' with his lover (she lives in a different apartment in the same building) comes across a painting that ``began to have therapeutic value,'' visits the artist, and decides that ``The Earth is God's painting....'' Again, lively but a bit easy. Occasionally engaging tales of malaise and innocent perversion, though the vision that guides them is neither fresh nor consistently original. Some appeared in the Missouri Review, the Kansas Quarterly, TriQuarterly, and the Denver Quarterly.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-252-01843-5
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1991


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