MADONNA ON HER BACK by Alyson Carol Hagy (Stuart Wright: $15; 118 pp.). Here are eight stories that range wide and deep and strong with what might very well be a brand-new American voice. They are about women: a teacher, a hippie, a farmer, a soothsayer, a crazy. And the narration running through every single one of them is as real as the bills in the mail.
Here's Ellie, a 30-year-old sagging housewife, whose husband is long gone, planning on seducing her young collegiate boarder: "I'm going out there later to lay Will Kramer down beside the legs of our mama's piano legs like he's never been laid before. I've wanted to do it since he moved in, and no matter what you think, I think he's been asking for it. Stares at my chest now like it was in a magazine."
And here's a line that does far, far more than merely describe: "At the sound of her voice, the starlings skittered to higher perches and the stray cat that was hunting in the ditch below the garden slipped into the honeysuckle." It locks the details and the action to the page and gives us a crystal-clear glimpse of what goes on in the mind of Alyson Carol Hagy. This one is a winner.