NAKED TO NAKED GOES by Robert Flanagan


Email this review


From the author of Maggot (1971, now in its 11th printing), nine stories that are looking for a voice and that, while they look, range from sentimental sit-com to tough-guy tale to the awful immaturities of mid-life crisis (species: American male). The best story here may be ""Father's Day,"" an often delicately limned drama of experienced age versus shallow youth, told in the manner of Raymond Carver. But even here, as a working-class father-in law struggles to disguise his dislike for the spoiled boy who married his daughter, the rhythm of soap opera intrudes: ""Mickey had told Margaret but had made her promise not to tell Dewey about Russell pushing her down the apartment stairs."" In ""Local Anaesthetic,"" the author's practiced eye for detail strives to breathe life into Peyton Place material: rich lawyer (risen from the slums), his hippie son, his feebleminded daughter, his plump mistress with a politically influential husband: and an incriminating letter. In ""Berzerk,"" a video-arcade worker falls in love with a tough gal whose heart is soft (she kills for love, then flees); and ""Gaming"" is an anachronistic and double-twist-ending mix of Hemingway, O. Henry, and Joyce's ""Two Gallants,"" though more sex-explicit than any of those. In the title story, a husband chafes at the bit of marriage, then begs for his wife to come back, leaving the reader with a sense of graceful moments and shallow characters. Shallower still are the man in ""Teller's Ticket"" who bets away his wife's sexual favors in a poker game (but is saved from humiliation by a couple of last-minute reversals and a Good Family Doctor); and the divorced history prof of the long ""Comedy of Eros,"" who takes up with a girl two decades his junior and reveals that he's not quite ready for the experience. Angry that she's let him believe her to be a virgin, he ""kept her at it most of the night. . . A few times she tried to call a halt to it, and once cried, 'That hurts!' but I was beyond caring. I kept at it even when I tasted the tears on her face."" This from a narrator who announced earlier that ""A man dealing with a woman learns early on to lie if he hopes to keep her around a while."" Eclectic in manner, at times incapable of embarrassment, and likely to be fiercely enraging to those who'd hoped male sexism was a dying myth.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Scribners