A Fanatic Heart: Selected Stories of Edna O'Brien, foreword by Philip Roth (New American Library: $7.95). These short stories draw us into the rough-and-tumble world of their characters with a force usually present only in longer, more involved works of fiction. Yet, while we maintain close contact with Edna O'Brien's characters throughout these pieces, the characters themselves only find intimacy in fleeting moments. Because O'Brien writes about people who yearn for, rather than experience, the erotic, magical, exciting feeling of being caught up in another's destiny, Philip Roth, in the foreword, justifiably criticizes those who have called O'Brien "an Irish Colette." "Irish Revel," for instance, one of the stories collected here, is darker than works by Colette, though it begins on a bright note: Mary is invited to her first party at the Commercial Hotel, and she's led to believe that John, with whom she has been obsessed for two years, might be there. Mary, writes O'Brien, "felt the joy leaking out of her heart." Yet John never arrives, and Mary soon returns to her house, which, "like a little white box at the end of the world, (was) waiting to receive her."
The Writer's Art, James J. Kilpatrick (Andrews, McMeel & Parker: $8.95). Free gift flashes on TV screens. Irregardless and I could care less can be heard in the streets. Gay has been co-opted by a new generation. It is time, James Kilpatrick believes, to declare war against gobbledygook. Though not one to heartily welcome new usages, Kilpatrick chooses his targets with care. He is hesitant to advocate black-and-white rules, such as a ban on splitting infinitives, yet quick to acknowledge his own excesses, such as one attempt to describe growing numbers of political action committees. "Now proliferation is in itself about a two-dollar word, but that was not enough. The devil was in me. At precisely that moment, a word wandered by. These things are like knowing sin . . . . (The word) slithers along, wet-lipped, scented with exotic perfume; it gazes at the writer with a come-hither glance . . . . The word was mitotically . . . . I hated myself in the morning, but it was too late."