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by Will Baker

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-8262-0853-3
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Eight stories from a Pushcart Prize winner and author of Mountain Blood (1985) and Track of the Giant (1990). ``Chiquita Banana Muy Bonita,'' the lead story, is about a mildly clever sting operation, perpetrated upon norteamericanos by desperately poor people, in an Andean city. From it one can only conclude: tourists, beware; there is little character development. The longest tale, ``The Iron Doughnut,'' about a produce clerk who gets dragged to an art class and inadvertently founds a new movement, is a consistently amusing sendup of performance art, and it's the only piece here with a likable protagonist. ``Gorepac'' ventures into science fiction with a kind of computer-game variation on Ray Bradbury's ``The Veldt,'' but does seem to fit into the collection since several of the stories have a surreal edge. Baker's most accomplished effort may be ``Stealing Home,'' about a visiting professor's accidental rendezvous with a high- school classmate from 20 years before. She invites him to a dinner- from-hell in her very up-to-date, and yet familiar, suburb, where no one is happy and every dream has gone sour. She grows tipsy and attempts to seduce him, at which moment her son, an ordinary lout, and her husband, a failed baseball player, enter the room. In the denouement, we learn of the professor's rather severe limitations as well. Finally, in ``Jogger's Reef,'' Baker takes on the fitness madness of California, where he teaches. Not a distinguished collection, but Baker is in tune with the contemporary scene, and his tone—sly, satirical but not savage- -goes down easily.