Picks and Pans Review: Pitch Dark

updated 01/16/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/16/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Renata Adler

"About the story, she had said, 'It's glum,' " writes the narrator near the end of this intense, extremely stylized piece of fiction. It's difficult to call this collection of brilliant paragraphs a novel when it is composed of scattered observations, thoughts, internal mumbles, painful truths, trendy references and cryptic conversational exchanges. The narrator is a woman who is at the end of an affair. She cites dozens of unrelated, odd, yet fascinating incidents: A raccoon sneaks into her house and sits on the stove, weakened, to die; another woman describes group therapy with her daughter and weeping husband; an all-volunteer army must have saltines. Everything seems to have been included arbitrarily in this book. Its events are as random as real life. A mood, dark and sinister, grows steadily and a tight kind of suspense is created. Like Donald Barthelme, Adler expects a lot from a reader. In return, she accords an uncommon amount of respect. For those who would like to know where fiction is headed, it's somewhere in this aggressive, provocative direction. (Knopf, $12.95)

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