DATING MISS UNIVERSE by Steven Polansky

DATING MISS UNIVERSE

Nine Stories
Age Range: 0 - 8142
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KIRKUS REVIEW

paper 0-8142-5019-X Polansky’s debut volume—of skillful, and skillfully familiar, stories—is winner of Ohio’s Sandstone Prize in Short Fiction. Leading off is “Leg,” which, though included in The Best American Short Stories 1995, may merely anger some in its telling of a religious family man who lets his injured leg go untreated until it needs amputation, all seemingly in order—by nursing this Christ- like scourge—to gain the respect of his sullen teenaged son. Other family dysfunctions occur in “Sleight,” with its pun on sleight/slight, a near-hyper-researched story about a magician whose daughter estranges him; and in the also ambiguously titled “Rein,” in which a man feels both trapped and made guilty by his wife’s clinical depression, a situation that’s little assuaged by a visit from the dashing, handsome horse-breeder who was once her lover, now enviably free. Less ambitiously symbol-structured pieces occur in “Acts,” another father-son tale, this time about athletics and courage; and in the title story, told by a Manhattan cabby who briefly—and with only purest intentions’stalks Miss Thailand around town. Caution is given in “Beard” that stories should never be written about writing stories, though breaking that rule—a 40-year- old man is winner of a fiction contest—results in Polansky’s best and richest piece here, especially in its portrayal of the “nationally known” writer who comes to offer a “master class” to the winners. Less good overall is “Pantalone,” about a Prufrock- like English prof, his own marriage on the rocks, who falls in love with a beautiful student who has a scarred face; his passive inertia (he loses both wife and girl) may be central to the story’s theme, but it gives no pleasure to the reader, as neither does his scarcely believable insensitivity. Conscientiously wrought fiction, always capable in scheme and technique, less often strongly involving.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8142-0818-5
Page count: 196pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999