Picks and Pans Review: Transactions in a Foreign Currency

updated 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Deborah Eisenberg

There's a chilly despair, a palpable ache, to all the short stories in this collection. They revolve around intense young women, from a teenager to women in their 30s. "I had always assumed that life would start for me at about the age I had reached now," muses the 34-year-old narrator of the vivid "Broken Glass," which is set in a Latin American village where the woman has gone to assuage the pain of her mother's death. Eisenberg writes with an acute economy of language. She's least effective trying to be funny. "Rate's Coat," a kind of soap opera satire that seems intended to be soap opera-like itself, hardly takes advantage of its potential. Describing an hour on the soap This Brief Candle, the narrator says, "Here was someone named Carolyn being kissed passionately by a man in a suit. 'Oh, Shad, Shad,' she said. Shad? Why Shad? 'Chad, my darling,' Carolyn continued, wisely abandoning her attempt to kiss him while saying her lines." But most of the time Eisenberg does a deft job of maintaining a mood. It helps that, unlike many of her fellow New Yorker writers, she seems aware that people from such places as Chicago or Pennsylvania can be worth writing about. (Knopf, $15.95)

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