The Voice of America
  • Published:
    May-1991 (Hardcover)
    May-1992 (Paperback)
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Nearly every page in this wonderful collection of stories offers a revelation about some aspect of human experience, often hilariously funny or, simply, brilliantly observed. In most of these 15 stories, DeMarinis ( The Year of the Zinc Penny ; Under The Wheat ) demonstrates that he can make the unlikliest of characters into fascinating protagonists. He can also capture the ineffably sweet quality of remembered childhood textures and issues without cloying sentimentality or nostalgic fog. While we encounter such eccentric folks as the manager of a trailer park who has secretly installed spy cameras in some of the units (``The Whitened Man''), a repo man who talks the language of Star Trek (``Aliens''), a man who seems to be haunted by lightning (``Insulation'') and a writer who pens pseudonymous romance potboilers only to fall in love with the woman hired to pose as Veronica LaMonica at book signings (``God Bless America' and ``Her Alabaster Skin''), it is in the characterizations of adolescent boys where DeMarinis particularly sparkles. In ``Safe Forever,'' Charlie, the 11-year-old narrator, experiences VJ Day as the day when people on the street steal all his frozen treats and overturn his ice cream cart. But despite this and other losses, Charlie's optimistic sense of the trajectory of his own life is so pervasive that at the end of the story, when he has broken his arm and is being driven to the hospital, he imagines himself ``in the Plexiglas nose of a B-29, on the one-way mission that would carry me into the rest of my life.'' Ravaged though they are by illness, drugs, poverty, ennui or general flakiness, DeMarinis's characters speak of possibilities and futures. Their voices are extraordinarily diverse, but they are all informed by DeMarinis's uniquely energetic and canny style. (May.)
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