Picks and Pans Review: Do the Windows Open?
For the narrator of these nine comic stories, something is rotten with just about everything. She's 40ish (and fading), married (to a busy architect whom she rarely sees), lives in Manhattan (but flees every summer to Nantucket) and takes photographs (among her projects are portraits of a renowned reproductive surgeon who, alas, was unable to help her conceive).
In the title story, the unidentified narrator's terror of driving on an expressway leads her to take a bus, where she has to endure the smell of people eating peanuts—"contaminated by the carcinogenic mold aflatoxin" no less. In "Perfect Vision" she suspects her German optician of being a Nazi, his blue eyes made of a "frozen mineral substance through which every kind of cruelty could be transmitted." But Hecht's heroine isn't bitter or bonkers; she's a solitary soul too finely attuned to the world.
These are her private monologues—a mix of deadpan wit and despair and fleeting moments of joy. In "The Thrill Is Gone" she finds it a struggle just to get out of bed, but the story ends with a neighborhood boy pointing out a rainbow, which causes her heart to leap. Hecht delivers wry, brilliant ruminations on not merely the sorry state of things, but also on her search for an answer to "how to live in the world." (Random House, $21)
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