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the business-speak of the amusement park's management exactly right, and the story, which is hUariously scathing, also questions how much workers should sacrifice for theirjobs. Saunders' characters are both tragic and funny. They're caught in terrible situations, working at terrible jobs, nursing grievances and plotting revenge. "The End of FIRPO in the World" detaüs the last bike ride of the overweight misfit Cody. He circles the neighborhood, seething from the injustices wrought by the fortunate Dalmeyers, his squatty body, his mother and her boyfriend. PropeUed by his plan of revenge—he's going to insert a wooden lozenge into the Dalmeyers' garden hose so that it wUl explode the next time it's turned on— he rides in front of a car and is hit. "Sea Oaks" presents another narrator with pecuUar employment. He's a waiter/stripper at a place called Joysticks. The story contains a supernatural element in the form of Aunt Bernie, who UteraUy rises from the grave and uses newfound psychic powers to goad her unemployed nieces, along with the narrator, out of theti inertia. Saunders' humor is based partly on the situational. For instance, would it be possible to write a humorless story about someone who has a job as caveman in a foundering amusement park? I don't think so. Furthermore , Saunders precisely renders his characters' internal thought and dialogue, with all its comic irony. Certain people speak and act in ridiculous ways—the lazy unwed mothers in "Sea Oaks," the substanceabusing son and the yuppie young parents in "PastoraUa," the picky yet love-starved barber in "The Barber's Unhappiness." The speech of the selfhelp guru in "Winky" is funnybecause it's so ridiculously sincere; and it's funny because people are nodding eagerly at the guru's words, as ti these words will save their lives. There's humor in witnessing someone 's delusion, and many characters in Pastoralia are deluded. Listening to their voicesjustify, excuse and explain, we are amused by their blindness. But these stories do more than urge us to laugh ata bunch of misfits. Ultimately we come to understand the tragedies, missed opportunities, accidents and frustrations that lie beneath the surfaces of the characters ' lives as universal disappointments and tragedies. Before her untimely death, Aunt Bernie had sacrificed her life caring for others. The barber is so self-conscious about his aging body and deformed feet that he lives primarily in a world of fantasy. And Cody, with his plans of revenge, is smarting from all the times he's been the butt of jokes. Despite their sometimes surreal situations , the men and women in Pastoralia are people very much like us. (AKB) Make Believe by Joanna Scott Little, Brown, 2000, 224 pp., $23.95 Scott's singular voice and literary devices transform the melodrama of a child-custody struggle into a novel that further enhances the reputation of this rising uterary star. That Make Believe is a melodrama becomes immediately apparent. The novel begins with Bo, the child protagonist, hanging in the ruins of the car wreck The Missouri Review · 183 that küled his mother, Jenny Templin. Jenny was white. Bo's father, Kamon (who wasn't married to Jenny), was black. Neither set ofparents approved of the match, and when Kamon is shot while on his way to buy cigarettes for his thuggish cousin, the stage is set for a battle over who will raise Bo. Not surprisingly, Bo is taken from his poor but virtuous African American grandparents and placed in the care of Marge and Eddie Gantz, Jenny's troubled but seemingly normal suburbanite parents, where Bo becomes, as Eddie calls him, a "devU child." Scott's dazzling technical skill and unfaltering voice set this novel aglow. As with so many other voicedriven novels (The Sound and the Fury comes to mind), it takes a while to get oriented. The novel begins with Bo's perspective on the car accident: "Maybe he fell and that's why he was hurting and dangling upside down like a pati ofjeans on the wash Une." A wonderful omniscient narrator crawls inside the mind of each character and assumes his or her unique...


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pp. 183-184
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