EUGENE McNAMARA

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 423

[The Fruit Man, the Meat Man & the Manager] shows that [Hood] knows perfectly well where he is and what he is doing. The stories are carefully varied, like a bon voyage fruit basket. "Who's Paying for This Call?" is a stream of consciousness, lower case word portrait of the artist agonizing over his use/misuse of his craft and his public. "Cura Pastoralis", about a young priest who violates his vows, "One Owner, Low Mileage", about a widow left with a large new automobile she doesn't know how to drive, and "The Singapore Hotel", about a bank manager's encounters with the home office's whizz kid, are three samples of a kind of workmanlike, slice-of-life story that J. F. Powers used to be good at. They are the kind of stories that set literature classes on the hunt for subtle epiphanies.

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"Dog Explosion" is an actual shaggy dog story. "Harley Talking" is a documentary set in Moishe's Steak House that would make, I think, a very effective television play or short movie. As a short story, it seems too full of implications that are dropped too evidently. "Places I've Never Been" is a Joycean-Borges style story made up of cinematic (televisionistic?) elements juxtaposed to make up a nightmarish time-collapsing collage of contemporary images: a canoe trip into almost spoiled nature, a grotesque funland, a contemplated rape, an urban riot. Why?

"A Solitary Ewe" is a case in point. It is a carefully wrought piece, with a strong sense of place. ("Most of the club members knew about Le Normand which was not much publicized, maybe because a lot of people who did publicity ate there. The restaurant had a cluttered little window with Calvados bottles and tearsheets of ancient A. J. Liebling articles in it, a number of pictures of Canadian Troops at Caen in 1944 and a deceitful menu which was never revised.")

This sort of thing could easily become arch, coy, cute. But Hood brings it off. The story works very well as an investigation of human crossed-purposes, friendship, love, jealousy. Many of his stories come to the brink of cuteness, where the right words, the best stage properties, the exact touches, like prestige books cornered on a coffee table, threaten to overwhelm the fiction. But most of the time, the stories avoid the final pitfall and work brilliantly.

Eugene McNamara, in a review of "The Fruit Man, the Meat Man & the Manager" (copyright © 1972 by Eugene McNamara; reprinted by permission of the author), in Queen's Quarterly, Vol. LXXIX, No. 1, Spring, 1972, p. 120.

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