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384 WesternAmerican Literature with his own father; and he must deal with the loss of a grandfather he adores. In the third section, “The Broken Face of Summer,” we see a more mature understanding of life evolving as the poet confronts new relationships and sees things he has missed before. For example, in “Passing Through Virginia” he sees a young boy contemplating life, wishing for a life elsewhere that might he more glamorous. The poet knows that such glamour usually doesn’t exist someplace else, clearly the revelation of someone who has lived for a while. In the last section, “The Terrace, St. Tropez,” the poet appears to have achieved a certain peace with himself and life. He recognizes that where he is in life is not so bad, if he willjust let himself “fit”into it. Hogan’s poetry is accessible, but it does not give up all of its secrets easily, which affirms the work’s strength and quality. The superficial overview I have just provided of this book does not do justice to the fanciful imagery in poems like “The Terrace, St. Tropez” and “The Broken Face of Summer.” Also, I particularly like the prose poems, such as “The Tiger,” “Apostate,”and “Retain­ ing Wall,”which function as poems even though they are written as prose. Though Hogan has lived a good part of his adult life in the Southwest, the themes addressed in these poems are universal and not strictly western. Hogan’s vision will challenge readers from any region to think more carefully about life and their place in it. EDGAR H. THOMPSON Emory & Henry College The Pumpkin-Eaters. By Lois Braun. (Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1990. 264 pages, $12.95.) The setting for most of the stories in this collection—the small town of Silvercreek on the vast prairie of Manitoba—is a metaphor for entrapment, a place to escape from if one possibly can. Those who stay behind, either by choice or by circumstance, are doomed to live anxiously within themselves, to be spooked by things in the night, until they are devoured by their own doubts and insecurities. Braun parades a long line of such lonely and morbid souls before the reader: a frequenter ofgraveyards (“No Cats in Heaven”),a shy clerk and a creepy undertaker (“The Right Company”), an aloof hunter and a deserted woman (“Spells”). As the young protagonist of one story must vigi­ lantly remind herself, “To stay in Silvercreek is death.” Ironically, though, for those who do leave, the world beyond this psychic and emotional wasteland isjust as likely to offer disaster (‘“Bridge Out’”) as new life (the narrator in “Playa Carauna”). Furthermore, those outsiders who pass through Silvercreek bring with them many ofthe worst sins known to humanity, Reviews 385 everything from incest (“Sahara”) to homicidal violence (‘Johnny Winkler”)— proof of a deeper and more pervasive evil than at first suspected. If all this seems too pessimistic, one will be cheered by the fact that Braun, at her best, can transform her fascination with the dark side of experience into small comic masterpieces. Braun has been compared to Flannery O’Connor, and surely the association is apt, though O’Connor’s use of the Gothic is more pronounced. Braun ‘s satirical targets are often the same as O’Connor’s: hypoc­ risy and religious fanaticism in ‘Johnny Winkler” and “The Pumpkin-Eaters,” pride and willful ignorance in “‘Bridge Out’.”The latter, in fact, reads like an inspired parody ofO’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”The surprise that awaits Braun’s newlyweds at the end of the road isn’t the Misfit, but it isjust as deadly and just as self-ordained. Although not all the stories here are gems, there are rewards for the reader—Braun’s sensitive portrait of the elderly in “Glass Floats,” her celebra­ tion of adolescent mischiefin “The Silvercreek Cemetery Society”— even when the conflict turns out to be nothing more than a false alarm, or else is too subtle or too trivial to sustain the mounting tension. Overall, the stories in The Pumpkin-Eaters are grim but also quite funny at times; strange, if not resonantly eerie. There is even...


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pp. 384-385
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