KICK IN THE HEAD by Steven Rinehart


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A debut collection of a dozen stories, set in the Midwest and focusing on marginal people who always seem to be in motion, searching for some kind of solid connection that will perhaps make them whole.

Few, if any, of the people Rinehart writes about are having any fun. They drift through life, moving from one job to another. The guys hang out in bars, looking to pick up women. And the women are experiencing (surprise) men problems. Violence, usually by gun or car, almost perpetually hangs heavy in the air, whether it's a woman who has her head smashed in with a beer bottle in ``Mr. Big Stuff,'' a particularly nasty story; ``Le Sabre,'' in which a young boy gets run over by a car; or ``Burning Luv,'' which depicts a hitchhiker taking revenge on a cowboy clown who stops to pick him up and then leaves him stranded in the desert. The best of the collection is the title piece, about a college student who embarks on a doomed affair with the diabetic, suicidal veterinarian wife of his college film professor, and not far behind is ``The Blue Norton,'' wherein a lie about the ownership of a motorcycle eventually brings down a dream relationship wished for by many men: purely sexual. Unfortunately, most of the characters are flat and lifeless, as if they were created merely for use in a short story. This is the case even for a recurring narrator named Chris Bergman, who appears as a boy in ``American Arms'' and ``The Order of the Arrow'' and as a man in several other tales.

For the most part, although Rinehart is a talented writer, the results here are frustratingly unimpressive, an MFA's idea of what makes short fiction work. The stories don't end, they just stop, as if Rinehart ran out of ink (or ideas).

Pub Date: May 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-385-49853-5
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2000