Picks and Pans Review: Squandering the Blue

updated 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Kate Braverman

There are a couple of things you could surmise about this book just by reading its dust cover: (1) that because the author is a poet (four of her previous six books are verse), her prose style might be heavy on visual imagery and symbolism and (2) that since the title, Squandering the Blue, has no actual meaning, you may also be in for a lot of color references of that poetical sort.

That these bleak stories also turn out to be repetitive, self-indulgent and mostly overwritten is something you barely need crack the spine to discover.

The heroines of Braverman's 12 tales all live—more or less miserably—in the Los Angeles area; they're either lonely or in abusive, difficult relationships with men; they're either drinking too much or going to AA; they're obsessed with either their children or their parents, and, of course, with themselves. They all—to a one—natter on endlessly in the kind of overtherapized soul poetry that only becomes laughable after it has been excruciating.

There's Erica, the poetry student, obsessing about poet-suicides Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton: "Or perhaps they wore their other lives like cotton frocks in a pastel simultaneity." And Maggie Decker, sitting on a Roman wall: "It is all stone upon stone, one at a time, relentless as cells, she is realizing. And stone is the DNA of the exterior world. And doesn't man build dimensional metaphors of his interior, obsessively constructing what he only subliminally recognizes?" And that's not even counting the color imagery: "A green like a death sentence"; "There were small blue wounded sounds in the room now"; "The blue that knows you and where you live and it's never going to forget."

Infrequent moments of lucidity burst through this smog—"Naming Names," a touching rumination on a girl's lower-middle-class adolescence, is almost spare. But that's a rarity; if this collection were a color, it would be a particularly dull gray. (Fawcett Columbine, $18.95)

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