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IN BRIEF

Fiction

May 12, 1991|Michael Harris

THE VOICE OF AMERICA: Stories by Rick DeMarinis (W. W. Norton: $18.95; 224 pp.) . "Versatile" is the best word to describe Rick DeMarinis. A few American writers--a very few--might be able to top him in writing any of the 15 short stories in this collection, but hardly anybody could do a better job of writing them all.

Name a type, almost, and it's in here. Ironic Nostalgia: A boy who longs to fight in World War II struggles against the knowledge that he will be "safe forever" after V-J Day. Coming of Age: A newly hatched Air Force trainee, home on leave in the '50s, is initiated by a girl from the family of "degenerates" across the street. The Parable: A passive, burned-out teacher gets in touch with Stone Age savagery on a camping trip. The Unreliable Narrator: The creepily officious manager of a mobile-home park spies on a retarded couple who live there. The Elegy: A photographer dying of cancer takes a heart-warming last trip through the Southwest with his friends. Shock Treatment: A youth reared in an abusive family gets big enough to hit back. Humor: A man who writes romance novels under a feminine pen name--Veronica LaMonica--patiently endures the scorn of his teen-age son and gets his inspiration by dressing up in drag.

And so on.

DeMarinis ("Under the Wheat," "The Year of the Zinc Penny") is clearly at a happy stage in his career--experienced enough to achieve technical mastery, yet still young enough to sprinkle his work with exuberant flourishes. The last story in "The Voice of America" is a flourish in itself: a story masquerading as a correspondence course in how to write stories, the kind of deconstructionist self-indulgence that only a pro like him can make readable and fun.

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