Chattering Man

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In the title story of Merrill Joan Gerber’s CHATTERING MAN, Annie, a college student, suddenly realizes that life, unlike art, cannot be left behind when the museum gallery closes for the night. She must live in the real world of painful indecision and various mysterious fates. She must face the indifference of her boyfriend, for example, and the subsequent upheaval into the next phase of her life. “How easy for an artist to make pronouncements which pretended to penetrate mystery,” she muses ruefully as she tours an exhibit of mechanical chattering men—an exhibit which in the end says nothing to her. She realizes that the answers she needs to life’s demands will not simply offer themselves to her even in the heady environment of the art gallery. She must instead look to her own strengths and knowledge and determination.

Gerber’s other characters are equally gritty and determined; whether they like it or not, they are strong women. Lynn in “See Bonnie & Clyde Death Car” stumbles upon her strengths in spite of herself. Set in Las Vegas, the story charts with keen intelligence and humor the rise and fall of a young wife’s exasperation with her husband, her emotions wildly dictated by loss and recovery of her handbag in a crazy crowded casino. Others, like the teenage protagonist in “Tabu,” tackle with unexpected verve and bravado the unfair assaults society—and the sex-crazed young male—makes upon the female. The adolescent...

(The entire section is 456 words.)