THE DEALER'S YARD by Sharon Sheehe Stark


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Twelve stories, originally published in such small magazines as Antioch Review and Prairie Schooner--most of them dealing with family tensions and losses, none of them quite succeeding in finding the right balance between penny-plain portraiture and more consciously literary crafting. The opening piece, ""HIS Color,"" is the simplest and most affecting: a family reunion in western Pennsylvania, with the narrator's sad yet striving closeup of her retired, failing, worrywart father--a ""domestic inspector,"" wobbling from ""loose bannister to sharp radiator cover to rusted muffler."" Elsewhere, however, the family portraits are encumbered with quasi-poetic flights and metaphorical shapings that stick out more than they should. ""Best Quality Glass Company,"" in the very difficult (yet widely imitated) Raymond Carver mode, strains too hard to find metaphors for existential panic and a fracturing marriage: an intruder in the basement, a Nevada-shaped piece of glass (""the state of Nevada, the state of matrimony""). Two stories evoke an adolescent girl's response to the nonstop fighting between her mismatched parents: in the brief, modestly effective ""The Horsehair,"" this unease is represented by the itchings of a pesky horsehair undergarment (""Nothing ever got fixed for good""); in ""The Appaloosa House,"" a wry, engaging narrative leads up to an unnecessary, ponderous envoi. (""These things I began to know as I sat forgotten on that flagrant family rock, and still I knew nothing and dared not move or speak for the mysterious forces suspending the thin moon over the black poplars and all the,"" etc.) And other familiar yet strong materials--Oedipal rage, grief and mourning--are similarly overworked, while a few stories explore other territory (survivors, neighbors, outsiders) with uneven but intriguing results. Flawed, somewhat insecure work, then, but there's definite promise in Stark's eye for family detail, her unsentimental warmth, and her small-town Pennsylvania milieu.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1985
Publisher: Morrow