Picks and Pans Review: Let Us Know

updated 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/31/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Diane Vreuls

These dozen short stories from a novelist and poet are distinguished by a prickly variety of originality. The title tale begins with a boy and his grandfather who are flying a kite, a Waybe Highspy. The narrator then tells of wooden nickels, an AWOL soldier who lives in the wild, a high school reunion, and two ice-skating Dutchmen. He describes reading a story from magazine pages used to line shelves in a rented room. The scenes are packed with numerous specific details, names of streets, room numbers and towns. Even fragmentary passages are surprisingly vivid—their juxtaposition arbitrary, puzzling, yet somehow exact. In a story entitled "Facing the Cold," a couple suffers the effects of a terrible winter. The man can't make the warming blanket work, but he "thinks electrical objects, if broken, need only rest to mend, like the brain." "Returns," like several of the stories, seems to be about travel. Indeed there is a theme of restlessness running through all these stories, which is conveyed through the style—brief sections that stand alone as mini-essays. These are linked only at the end by a nice flourish. In "A Town Like Kansas," a story that may have something to do with mental illness, the narrator concludes, "I'm moving to Kansas, pick up a cyclone cellar with the money I've saved off drink. It's perfect for a narcosis. Farming mushrooms. A dormitory for bats. I've taken to running in place, my hair flowing backward like smoke. Beryl, Beryl, I'm learning to speak in Swahili. I'm learning to play the organ, I'll teach your child." Maybe what Vreuls is doing is writing poetry that is only disguised as fiction. Whatever it is, it's worth sampling. (Viking, $14.95)

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