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February 24, 1991|Charles Solomon

ME AND MY BABY VIEW THE ECLIPSE by Lee Smith (Ballantine: $4.95). The stories in this collection all are set in the contemporary Deep South, and showcase Smith's ability to capture the rhythms and nuances of Southern speech. ("Gloria didn't mind going without, to get him whatever he wanted. She really didn't. She was glad to do it, that's the way she is. She's always been too big-hearted for her own good, she'll tell you that herself.") The strongest entries in the anthology are informal, first-person narratives about everyday people: When they come to an end, the storyteller seems reluctant to let the reader go, like a well-meaning neighbor at a block party--why, you didn't even get a chance to talk . These stories are best read separately, to prevent a certain sameness of tone from spoiling their individual subtleties.

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