Picks and Pans Review: One Way or Another

updated 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Peter Cameron

As more and more volumes of short stories, especially by young writers, are published, it becomes clear that the novel today isn't nearly as lively or fresh as it once seemed. The short story is where more of the finest creative juices are flowing, and Cameron is one of the form's best practitioners. His subtle, witty prose is admirably clean. His characters are mostly young, bright, sweetly puzzled by life. They can't find or even define a love that might prove lasting. "Memorial Day" is about an angry teenage boy who is trying to deal with his parents' divorce and his mother's new—and much younger—husband, a 29-year-old who is "too uptight to go barefoot. He would step on a piece of glass immediately." In "Fear of Math," a young woman takes a summer course in calculus so that she can enter an MBA program. Her parents argue, and when her mother talks to her about it, the daughter thinks, "Don't tell me this, don't say any of this. I don't want to know you're unhappy." Particularly moving is "Fast Forward," in which a young woman asks a friend to pretend that he is her fiancé because her mother is dying and wants desperately to believe the daughter's future has some substance. Cameron, 26, works for a land conservation agency in New York. This is his first book. (Harper & Row, $15.95)

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