Picks and Pans Review: Captain Maximus

updated 05/27/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/27/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Barry Hannah

These striking short stories by the author of the novels Ray and The Tennis Handsome are about a macho world that is tough and violent. Men wear leather, ride motorcycles and work on construction jobs. They drink too much in seedy dives and lust after women. Their guns are particularly lethal and frightening. Yet Hannah's prose is just about as dispassionately precise—even studied and mannered—as any in the U.S. today. In a story called "Getting Ready," a man named Roger Laird spends considerable wealth trying to catch a big fish. His wife thinks, "Roger was a wonderful lover when he wasn't fishing." Finally he lands a sand shark but throws it back: "He sold all his fishing gear at a terrible loss, and they moved to Dallas, address unknown." Sometimes the stories seem to have a randomness, yet underneath is careful order. In "Power and Light" tough women have jobs ordinarily held by men. Vivid scenes of drunks, a cursing blind boy, an ugly bulldog and a worker falling from a tall pole create a brilliant experiment in fiction. The villain gets his due, too: "The man with the bulldog is hanging around a comer being cynical, Nazi and remote, and he's hit directly by lightning. The bulldog flies off like a white small fat angel." Best of all is Hannah's ever surprising originality. He even comes up with new ways to describe sex. If Hannah's world is chaotic, it's also somehow convincing. Even in this season of impressive new collections of short stories, Hannah's Captain Maximus is outstanding. (Knopf, $11.95)

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