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THE AGE OF GRIEF by Jane Smiley (Ivy Books: $3.95)

November 19, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

In this collection of short stories, Jane Smiley writes about contemporary romances that lack the commitment, understanding and respect which distinguished L'Engle's marriage. Her self-involved characters quickly tire of each other, their relationships and themselves. At the first sign of trouble, one or both partners simply decamp, physically or emotionally. The almost catatonic husband in the title story can't bring himself to confront his wife with his suspicions of her infidelity--let alone face the problems that brought their marriage to this impasse. In another story, a young woman who wants a baby chooses a father who offers no possibility of emotional involvement: She feeds a gay friend marijuana-laced brownies, then consummates the relationship while he sleeps. The clean, vigorous style and strong characterizations in "The Age of Grief" reveal a young writer of considerable promise.

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