THIRTEEN by Ursule Molinaro


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Novelist (Positions with White Roses, Encores for a Dilettante) and translator Molinaro writes many of these mildly experimental stories in a crimped style that suits her usual subject: an alienated self-absorption that often leads to disaster. Originally published in journals such as New American Review, New Directions, and Denver Quarterly, these stories at their best dramatize the way extreme states of mind can be hidden from ordinary perception and from one's own consciousness. In "The Cyclotaur," an aging female film-cutter lives with a psychotic younger lover and shares his demonic vision of the cyclotaur. "AC-DC" is a fascinating, jittery account of a female translator (yet another sleepwalker driven by subconscious forces) who impulsively directs a murderer to hide from the police in her apartment. "Remote Control" dramatizes the moralistic voyeurism of a woman with a bad marriage--who watches "her private morning soap" through the open window of a neighbor woman engaged in sexual foreplay with the adolescent boys whom she tutors. In "Xmas Tryst," a vapid career woman on an Hawaiian holiday tries to be friendly in a bar with a Samoan, and he kicks her to death. Of the rest, some are competent but unremarkable, some promising but ultimately too clever ("Shadowplay on Snow"; "Dr. Arnold Biedermeier's Suicide Parlors"), and a couple get carried away with too many fidgety narrative gimmicks ("Sweet Cheat of Freedom"). Overall, then, sardonic black humor and a large dose of misanthropy combine successfully in the best here--to create an unbalanced, violent world where the distance between people is always too wide for them to cross.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1989
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