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even as MiUer was having his greatest success. Tosches, a generaUy admirable biographer who has previously covered subjects as wide-ranging as Dean Martin, Sonny Liston and Jerry Lee Lewis, has by his own admission spent years ruminating on MiUer's strange, singular art, to the point of being almost haunted by it. Unfortunately, in this book Tosches tends to favor gimmickry in his writing , and so we have endless sentences complete with seti-laudatory, juventie declarations like, "and that's a fack Jack," ancient symbols reproduced up and down the pages among the verbiage, and even one instance where Tosches stops his narrative to say just how brilliant his preceding paragraph was. Still, skimming through Where Dead Voices Gather, one does start to get curious and want to experience MUler's music. It's a muted triumph for a book this ambitious, but a triumph nonetheless . (CF) The Metal Shredders by Nancy Zafris BlueHen, 2002, 320 pp., $24.95 This debut novel by the winner of the Hannery O'Connor Award for short fiction deals with the Bonner famtiy scrap metal business, in Ohio, which goes back two generations. With the death of the grandfather, the founder, and with the new business interest (white goods) of the "Senior," John Bonner, Jr., soon finds himseU in charge—but reluctantly so. Even more reluctant to carry on the family business is John's sister, Octavia. For John, this means taking on enormous responsibüity, even as he knows that he can never please his father, who is inflexible, domineering and exceedingly distant. Fairly ambivalent toward him, John dislikes confrontation, yet he would tike to do things his own way, separate himseU from his father's rigid ideas about scrap, cost effectiveness, efficiency , many of them passed down from the Senior's own father, who had a weU-articulated vision of scrap. What is occupying most of John's attention, though, is his failed marriage . Pursuing another woman (a carefuUycalculatedpursuitofa healthfanatic jogger) provides intrigue, but it's a sterUe enterprise at best, and John desperatelyneeds his estranged wife, Elise. Octavia, has her own private demons, having been used by a married man. She feels at sea about who she is as a thirty-four-year-old woman, and this includes, as the novel proceeds, confusion about her sexuatity. There's no help from the home front with anything interpersonal , not with parents who exhibit arctic coldness for each other and a lack of real or meaningful communication with their chUdren. Zafris is at her best in delineating the superficial and hollow ties between these parents and their children. The family business meanwhUe heads for disaster as the brothersister team at the helm lacks clear direction and commitment. One turn of events that raises the reader's eyebrows concerns an LTD brought in by the county attorney's office. This car belonged to a husband and wife who were hoping to enter the big-time drug scene but instead got blown away by an Uzi and left in the trunk of their car for a few weeks to rot. The stink left behind The Missouri Review · 199 is intolerable. What the county attorney 's office did not know, and John Bonner and two scrap-metal employees (a welder and a night watchman) discover, is that a stash ofdrug money was squirreled away in the trunk as well. John decides to keep it, with each of the three carrying off a Hefty garbage bag of cash. The loot soon becomes more of a burden than a blessing. When John tries to eliminate the stink, or mask it (an impossible task, as his various attempts prove), he discovers that the cash is counterfeit. The final fate of this drug money varies from the grimly bizarre to the quirky. Zafris's deft handling of the effects of this fake money on the night watchman's daughter—who's clearly on the social outs but who now becomes an item to be reckoned with—is one of the strongest sections of this novel. Maybe it's the smell of this money—bad money, blood money— that reflects, indirectly, on the nature of a business where people can...


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pp. 199-200
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