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 The tough-guy realism and casual nihilism of Thom Jones, Denis Johnson, and Larry Brown (among others) is finding its expression in a second generation of new writers who often sacrifice the subtleties of language for the perfection of the pose. Such is the case with first-timer Lattimore. A typical Lattimore character will wonder out loud if we start life doomed or work our way there. Such white-trash philosophes include the aging slacker of the title story, who tried work once, didn't like it, and now lives in an inherited house with a young boy abandoned by his father, who doesn't seem to be returning any time soon. The depths of meanness surface in ``Dogs,'' in which the narrator recalls locking a friend in a cage and peeing on him; long-simmering anger is the ``sport'' of ``Family Sport''; here, the narrator's mother is losing touch with reality, and her father is not taking the change well. Cruelty is at the black heart of ``My Best Day Was the Third Grade,'' a rich man's memory of his childhood nastiness. The expectant father of ``Answer Me This'' considers splitting, then ends up in a fight at a 711. The result of disappearing parents is seen in ``Jarheads,'' about the son of a battered many-times married mom who makes some unlikely friends; and in ``Separate States,'' about a confused girl who lives with her long-gone mother's ex-husband, an uncommonly good dad, it turns out. The long ``Between Angels'' strikes a surprisingly slapstick note--it's the comic tale of a gangster's quest for proof of the existence of God as revealed by the Ark of the Covenant, supposedly stored in an L.A. warehouse. More tales from loserville by a promising, if somewhat derivative, newcomer.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-85407-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997