RESCUE by Stephen O’Connor


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O'Connor's first collection of a dozen stories, ranging from fabulist inventions to historical mixed-genre chronicles, is a quirky, visionary performance--a worthy if problematic addition to any short-fiction shelf. There are three gems here: "A Current in the Earth," a long chronicle about the first crew to navigate the Grand Canyon, told in prose and poetry († la Michael Ondaatje's Billy the Kid); "Lost Goodness," a lyrical fable told by a native who is brought from his island paradise of "tongue fruit" to the modern world; and the title story, an effectively grotesque hallucination of rescue by a man who is freezing to death after an avalanche. Otherwise, O'Connor prefaces each section of stories with a quotation from Job, but the pieces don't so much develop a theme or interlink as follow their own premises, often as not fantastic. In "Three Illuminations from the Afterlife of Lytton Swain," for instance, a deceased reverend wanders the earth, discovering first that he is dead (he tries to call his wife, and scares her nearly to death) and then that there are "no effects or causes," only instances (he meets Alexander Graham Bell; he flies) and finally a "paring away" (a grisly death-within-death). Similarly, in "Dad; or the Builder of Ships," a young man carries his father around in a paper bag--subsequent complications sometimes work metaphorically and sometimes strain too hard. Likewise, as in "Help" (the narrator jumps into fast-moving water to save a woman and gets washed away, all the while telling the tale in the first person), a technically accomplished but mannered style gets in the way of the story--or, as in "Loyal Channa" (a retelling of the Siddhartha story), too much is too much. A collection that takes chances, at times to its credit, by a writer worth watching.

ISBN: 517-57203-6
Publisher: Harmony
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