LADY OF SPAIN by Robert Love Taylor


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Taylor (The Lost Sister, 1989, etc.) tells the 1950's saga of a philandering Oklahoma father and the coming-of-age of his son--in nine interconnected stories that deal mostly with male sexuality and offer an incident-filled evocation of two archetypal lives. Bill Haynes is the father, Billy his son. Bill is a salesman (in his prime he sells high-school class rings, then, in his decline, textbooks) and, by his own account, an artist whose talent was ""compromised...before it could properly be developed."" In ""The Girl I Left Behind Me"" and ""Dark Eyes,"" told from Bill's point of view, Taylor dramatizes a bleak life in dust-bowl Oklahoma: ""I have worked all my life. I have lost everything, a wife to another man, a job through no fault of my own, my son and daughters gone off to their own lives, and I've scratched my way hack more than once."" In the next six stories, told from son Billy's perspective, the family takes a vacation (""Sentimental Journey"") that is at first idyllic, then obsessive and argumentative; the parents separate; the father remarries twice and takes to hard drink (""Lady of Spain"") while Billy motor-scooters about town and, like bis father, practices the accordion; ""The Tennessee Waltz"" not only introduces the clan (Texas, Tennessee) but also begins the sexual initiation of Billy that is consummated in the novella-length ""Golden Slippers,"" in which Billy, a shoe salesman (""the shoe is emblem and anthem of human folly""), meets Vernagene. In the final piece, ""Sweet Hour of Prayer,"" Billy attempts (in part through meditation) to come to terms with his father's collapse. The title story appeared in both the O. Henry Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories in 1987. Like that piece, the collection--managing by turns to be both gritty and lyrical--is a memorable one.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Algonquin