Picks and Pans Review: Moon Deluxe

updated 09/05/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/05/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Frederick Barthelme

In this collection of 17 short stories (13 have appeared in the New Yorker), the narrator is usually an oddly passive male confronted by a world of beautiful, eccentric and tough women. They have names like Violet, Crystal, Andrea, Ericka, Delores, Carmen and Pilar. Jobs are irrelevant. What counts is who is around the apartment swimming pool, the stores where the saleswomen play games, or the awful restaurants where waitresses make customers change seats for irrational reasons. Often the narrator is trying to avoid dealing with an ex-wife or an ex-girlfriend, and always he's facing a potential disaster. Brand names are anchors to the real world: "My neighbor, a 30-year-old bookkeeper for K mart, blond and not very popular with the other residents in the apartment complex, is sitting beside the pool with her Coors in a Styrofoam cooler." There are no plots and no endings; the stories just seem to stop naturally. But there is a strong inner tension that pulls the reader into each curious situation. How does this Barthelme compare with his older brother Donald? Donald is more original, wittier, and his work is rich with the widest possible range of historical references. Frederick is content to produce quick Polaroid snapshots of right now. (Simon & Schuster, $15.95)

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