MALINGERING by Susan Compo


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 Compo follows up her first collection (Life After Death, 1990) of post-punk fiction with 13 more tales filled with bizarre names, celebrity daydreaming, and aimless attitude-copping on the alternative-rock circuit and in teen subcultures of London and L.A. After a short but pretentious preface and an introduction-- where Compo gives an unnecessary thumbnail sketch of each story, akin to descriptions in TV Guide--the author fills her pages with riffs that occasionally capture the marginal bravado of young lost souls, but that more often feel too clever or arch and, at times, awfully overwritten: ``When the pop star finally kisses her sex, Chloe feels as if all her insides are shaken loose, and that they float out. She is lit within by uninhibited blackness, her empty stairwell resonant with sounds of joy'' (``Who Is Sleepwalking [And Who Envies Them]?''). At her best, though, Compo allows her flair for banter and oddness to cut close to the bone--as when Sharlatt, a romance writer in ``He Pales Next to You''--admits that ``I can barely be in the same room with anyone else, at anytime.'' At those moments, all the odd nicknames make sense as desperate gestures by generic characters determined somehow to be original. Likewise, in ``Ad Astra per Aspera,'' Holly (actually, Ms. Hollywood Cemetery, ``a poet of, and out of, sorts''), with Surfer Jay, who is reading on her bed, ``Hopes the words will draw him in deep and forever.'' Such forceful moments appear all too infrequently, though in a piece like ``(Don't Quit) Your Day Job,'' Compo sustains a funny satire of gossip columnist Havoc's rush for scoops for the National Intruder. It's as if Thomas Pynchon and William Gibson had cloned a child in a test tube and made her write. Entertaining but finally too uneven and mannered to sustain interest.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-571-19818-X
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993