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forward, Bank uses lively, often absurd, surprisingly resonant conversations between her characters to keep things moving. "The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine ," a nearly novella-length story about Jane dealing with her father's cancer and her aging lover's alcoholism , is the strongest one in the collection. Here Bank's agile dialogue and the episodic structure offset the weighty issues. The story shifts between Jane's interactions with a supportive boss, her gentle father (who has concealed his leukemia from her for seven years), and her famous editor boyfriend. It is through her conversations with and about these mentors, and her scrupulous and sometimes unsettling accounting of their reactions to her, that Jane realizes: "I was just one person in one window. Nobody was watching, except me." "The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine" combines the best of Bank's careful characterization and offbeat humor to create a moving portrait of a woman learning to let go. The two stories in the book not overtly about Jane stick out, as they intrude upon the linear progression of the linked stories. Both read more like outlines than fleshed-out fiction. The characters in these pieces reprise some ofJane's best lines, but without the depth of character that makesJane so likeable. The only story involving Jane that falls prey to a similar sketchiness is the title piece, reportedly the result of a suggestion by Coppola and the basis for the forthcoming screenplay. Although the premise is intriguing—Jane gets sucked in by a RuZes-like guide to romantic relationships and cannot banish the specters of a pair of perky high-school-cheerleader types who glom onto her and advise her on everything from hairstyle to appropriate conversation lengths—it reads like a heavy-handed outline with a clear moral ("Be yourself ") that is as uninspired as the romance guides Bank is satirizing. With the exception of this disappointing finale, A Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing lives up to its hype. (TH) The Hours by Michael Cunningham Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998, 230 pp., $23 Cunningham's third novel, winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize, is understated and lyrical, literate and wise. The Hours, a response to Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, moves between the lives of three women: Clarissa Vaughn, a book editor living in present-day New York City; Mrs. Brown, a stifled California housewife living in 1949; and Virginia Woolf, whom Cunningham re-creates at several key points in her life. Cunningham's prose is lovely and evocative, often echoing Woolf, but the most interesting element of this novel is its structure. The lives of the two American women appear at first to be united only by the ties of each to Virginia Woolf, but their stories, set in different generations on different coasts, come together beautifully and unexpectedly at the novel's end. I won't reveal what that end is; part of the disturbing pleasure of this book is discovering the connection between these two seemingly disparate lives. The Missouri Review · 187 The novel opens with a glimpse of Virginia Woolf in the last hours of her life (though Woolf, as a character, remains very much alive throughout the book). Her struggle with depression and the process of writing Mrs. Dalloway provide the thematic underpinning of The Hours. As with Woolf's novel, the real time of the novel concerns Clarissa Vaughn's preparations for a party that night. Her close friend Richard has been awarded a prestigious poetry prize, but he is also dying ofAIDS. It is Richard who, pointing to Woolf, calls Clarissa Mrs. D., or Mrs. Dalloway, and the story of his long friendship with Clarissa Vaughn mirrors Sally and Peter Walsh's relationships with Clarissa Dalloway. The third story belongs to Laura Brown. Mrs. Brown is an introvert , an almost obsessive reader, and the novel shows her increasing realization that she is not suited for conventional marriage or motherhood . The Hours is clearly built on the foundation of Mrs. Dalloway, and Cunningham quotes from it directly in several places, but one of the strengths of the book is that the echoes of Woolf are transmuted in ways...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 187-188
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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