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 The latest Flannery O'Connor Award winner offers a first volume of 11 stories (most originally published in literary reviews) featuring odd young women and men dealing with loss, failed relationships, and the difficulties of adulthood. Brenner's female slackers don't cultivate their eccentricities; they're just ill at ease in the ordinary world and often find themselves attracted to men of dubious charms. The narrator of ``Round Bar,'' a lover of men and animals, follows her married boyfriend from a bar in Florida where he performs back to his native Nashville, where she waits in a hotel to spend fugitive moments with him. The young woman of ``A Little Something'' falls for an older man with a really good line, one smoothly suggesting a sense of the miraculous. The narrator of ``Easy'' finally bails out of a relation with a violent bully. Lack of ambition plagues Brenner's twentysomething young women: The typist in ``Undisclosed Location'' feels extra-worthless when the fat slob down the hall scores big in the state lottery. A drab secretary in ``Guest Speaker'' invents a new self to present to a visiting speaker whom she must chauffeur from the airport. And in ``I Am the Bear,'' a young woman who hands out ice cream samples in a supermarket while wearing a bear costume loses her job by offending a local celebrity. Brenner's hapless protagonists struggle against their own fears--of wildness, of passion, of danger, and of recklessness. The men in these tales are equally awkward and uncertain: The grad student in ``The Oysters,'' working on a project in Agricultural Science, is frustrated in his love for his married prof and begins to feel like the oysters he's studying. The college-educated waiter in ``The Reverse Phone Book'' experiences so deep a ``chronic unease with the normal pace and pitch of the world'' that people assume he's retarded. Quirky, challenging tales and an impressive debut.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8203-1794-2
Page count: 168pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996