ICE SKATING AT THE NORTH POLE by Sena Jeter Naslund

ICE SKATING AT THE NORTH POLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A short first collection of seven stories, all published in literary journals (Georgia Review, Iowa Review, etc.): most are about women who concern themselves with infidelity of one sort or another and with divorce, and most have campus settings or academic backgrounds. In the title story, carefully detailed, the narrator, a small-college teacher at work on A Grammar of Vividness, muses on her husband's possible infidelity. ""On First Hearing Artful Singing"" is a quick-paced account of a marriage (""the puzzle of small moments"") by a woman 12 years divorced. ""The Woman Who Knocked Down Walls,"" on the other hand--about a marriage that moves from the South to graduate school in the Midwest to New York and divorce--has trouble deciding how satirical it means to be. The frothy ""The Perfecting of the Chopin Valse No. 14"" is about a narrator with high blood pressure and her mother, who not only plays her best Chopin late in life, but also puts together a dream-vision of a garden party. ""Five Lessons from a Master Class,"" likewise, uses a musical motif as emotional correlative: here, a daughter narrates the story of a journey with her professional-pianist mother to a class in Oklahoma--the lessons (Joy, Kindness, Death, Lust, Forgiveness) are subtly dramatized before the two return home to a husband who (the daughter suspects) has been wayward. The other two pieces, less successful, are additional variations--in ""Madame Charpentier & Her Children,"" a teacher suspects her best friend Amy of an affair with her husband after gaming knowledge ""from the air, from the light""; and ""Essence for Ms. Venus,"" also about divorce, is cutesy and a little skimpy. A number of delicate, worked-over images here--in stories that are highly crafted and contain much aesthetic pleasure, but finally are a bit too writers' workshoppy and too much alike to be memorable.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Ampersand Press (Roger Williams College, Bristol, RI 02809)