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136 the minnesota review thing like "wooded mountains," as the ferry ride was left merely a ferry ride, I would not have been distracted in the poem looking for the Adirondacks and the reason for their being mentioned. Gratuitous specificity does not mar my favorite poem inthis book, "RidingThrough Slums." It is right that this should be "wintry Connecticut" where the gentrified residents ofNew York, Boston, Hartford, and Providencetry toshield themselves from industrial blight. Like the poem on teaching at the Indian reservation, Wright makes adeep perception ofthe life thatboth attracts and repels her. The squat rowhouses toil up the hill; millwives line up at the bus stops for children who spill out the doors like coal slag, all yells and brittle edges. This is nearly on a par with Lowell's best social portraiture. But the idealist is strong in Wright. She sees these slums from a bus passing through, and it does not conform and will not bend to her "private, anarchic" dream of "green." No toil-varicosed arms open for us, strangers, free thinking in our queer dialect ofgreen . . . We must make our peace with gray, with brown, no matter what state—New Hampshire, Jersey, ordespair—we're in. Our plan will be private, anarchic, subject to whim or fits ofweather; will adapt to flight or sudden noises. Until we find it, we'll ride through darkening streets, thankful for every gap between houses. That, finally, may be my quarrel with this talented poet, that she is still too much subject to whim orfit ofthe poetic weather. I don't hearthe poems coming, yet, from a strongcenter. It is a large step in the right direction, however, for her to see this in herself. They will come in time. ROGER MITCHELL Bertolt Brecht. Short Stories 1921-1946. Eds. John Willett and Ralph Manheim. New York: Methuen , 1983. 242 pages. $9.95 (paper); $22.00 (cloth). You will not need the skeleton of starry-eyed idealism in your closet to enjoy Bertolt Brecht's Short Stories 1921-1946. Neither will you be assailed by the estrangement you may have come to associate with his plays. This prescriptive, pontificating man of the theater has no theory of the short story by which he toes the politico-aesthetic line (whatever that might be). He merely tells a good tale. Here, you will not be exasperated by more adolescents growing up, divorcees going away, or mood pieces whose only tussle with anything harsher than style is a character who's an alcoholic. Brecht entertains. He may make you think seriously about those little things we tend to accept— military madness for example—but Mankind's follies are, at least, always laughable. You will be brow-beaten here only with benign logic and language so unencumbered it sparkles, like crystalline Truth. These stories parallel three phases of Brecht's life. During 1920-24, his work was spiced with adventure and the outlandish. It was at this time that he rebelled from his medical studies in Munich toward the bohemianism ofthe Berlin stage. In Berlin, 1924-33, he was embroiled in controversy: vociferous reactions of first night audiences; charges that Villon's ballads were plagiarized in The Threepenny Opera. Almost as an antidote, he wrote sports tales. But with his increasing leftist di- reviews 137 dacticism, a deeper social concern emerged in his prose. He fled Hitler the day after the Reichstag fire (he had once appeared fifth on a Nazi list of those to be arrested). From 1933-46, in exile in Vienna, Denmark, Sweden and Hollywood, came his historical pieces—surely his most successful —stories that press close to fantasy, to fable, and to home. Brecht's fiction verges on the formulaic, but it is a formula of no-nonsense, no frills, almost generic. He has one method—direct, distilled narrative—one language—the unvarnished. He is said to have once requested a workman to dismantle a pelmet on a stage set, so that the workings of the curtain rail were not obscured for the audience; likewise here, "dramatic machinery" is often bare and unapologetic. Frequently he opens with a paragraph ofobvious preamble, ending with a blatant kick-start to the...


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