Picks and Pans Review: What I Know So Far

UPDATED 06/18/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/18/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Gordon Lish

There are 18 stories of various lengths in this volume, which follows Lish's violent novel, Dear Mr. Capote, published last year. In "Everything I Know," only three pages long, a husband and wife tell the narrator about an incident in which a strange man was discovered in her bed. "What Is Left to Link Us" has two different stories that overlap. In one a boy's sled disappears from an apartment hallway and triggers a feud with a custodian. At the same time the narrator is asked to dine with a friend and his mistress. One plot has a funny ending; the other is violent. "Guilt" is about that impossible time when a boy shifts from childhood to something that is not quite adult. A man remembers a tragic event that happened almost 40 years earlier—about which he still feels a terrible remorse. The longest story in this collection, "For Jerome—With Love and Kisses," is a whining complaint written by a father to a son who has gotten an unlisted telephone number so that the father can't call him. The Jerome David of the title, who calls himself J.D., exhibits more than a few Salinger-like traits. The story is funny, pitiful, awful—and brilliant. Lish's tales convey a feeling that they are accurate accounts of actual events. The prose itself is spare. Sometimes a kind of urban paranoia permeates everything, and the events can be strange, but there is a reality that holds up even when the story takes a fantastic turn. (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $14.95)

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