Scott Sommer Jonathan Baumbach - Essay

Jonathan Baumbach

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A kind of hip, post-1960's despair informs ["Lifetime," an] impressive collection of two novellas and three stories, the charm of the style in counterpoise to the anguish of the experience. To survive, Scott Sommer's characters take refuge in booze, drugs, sex, madness—anything to take the edge off loneliness and pain. All relationships in the corrupted world of these fictions are transient. In "Waiting for Merna," the temporary absence of the unemployed narrator's lover seems a rehearsal for an inevitable, permanent loss. The distraught older son in "Sickness," abandoned by wife and child, has returned to the madhouse of his parents' home. Mahoney, the hero of the title novella, has lost a woman he loves before the story starts and loses three more before the story is over. Love, which is of limited duration in this fictional world (and illusory perhaps even then), ends characteristically in disrepair and regret.

If the strategy of these stories tends to be post-modern in its imaginative use of literary form, the sensibility is romantic in the way of J. D. Salinger and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The brilliant "Entrapped and Abandoned" is presented as an imaginary love letter from the narrator, Taplinger, to a woman named Felice, whom he has provoked into leaving him. The narrator's nostalgia is the occasion of the story….

The compressed form of "Lifetime"—the action takes place over seven days and seven nights—and...

(The entire section is 491 words.)