Picks and Pans Review: Fast Lanes
A collection of skillful short stories, this book is by the author of a 1984 novel, Machine Dreams, in which ordinary folks were made to seem unusually eloquent. The characters in these stories, many of them rootless hippies, are just as compelling. In the title tale a young man and woman who know each other only casually take a trip in a pickup truck back to their homes. First they visit his family in Dallas. Now his father won't speak to him, and his mother drinks too much. Before they get to West Virginia, the young couple discovers that, despite the need that brings them closer, they are traveling in different lanes—hers is too fast. "How Mickey Made It" is narrated by a hyper young man who wants to sing with a rock band; his life story is a recital of horrors, including a loveless childhood. Both "Blue Moon" and "Bess" are, like Machine Dreams, concerned with the love between a brother and sister. Bess and Warwick, the siblings in "Bess," grow up on an isolated farm, the last of 12 children. They share fundamental experiences that bind them in a unique love that seems more meaningful than their marriages. Phillips, along with such writers as Alice Munro, Ann Beattie and Bobbie Ann Mason, is helping to make today's short story an extraordinarily rewarding form of fiction. (Dutton, $15.95).