Bette Pesetsky Christopher Lehmann-Haupt - Essay

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"One day it came to me that I was neither adopted nor the illegitimate daughter of the King of Rumania and Magda Lupescu. Everything, of course, has run downhill since then." So begins "Offspring of the First Generation," the eighth of the 15 brief stories in this collection. But the notes sounded here of humor, disillusionment and cheerful resignation in the face of loss are typical of Bette Pesetsky's infectious first work of fiction, "Stories Up to a Point."

For all, or most, of these stories are about middle-aged women whose lives have broken up, whose parents have died or divorced, whose husbands or lovers have left them, or vice versa, whose children have turned out badly, who do not wish to remember anymore, who cannot find anything to remember or who realize that the only continuity that remains is, as the narrator of one story concludes, "All things that happen to everybody will someday happen to my children."

Yet they go on looking desperately for continuity, these women do, and take it wherever they can find it….

In the fifth story, my favorite, "The Hobbyist,"… the narrator searches for continuity by cleaning out her grandparents' apartment, her grandfather having died at 82 and her grandmother having gone to live in Venice, Calif. She discovers her grandfather's lifelong hobby, which "was collecting dust." He would put dust samples in bottles and label them: "The store on Essex...

(The entire section is 505 words.)