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IN BRIEF

FICTION : ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART by Lynne Tillman (Serpent's Tail: $12.95; 157 pp. ).

July 07, 1991|Sharon Dirlam

"Utterly duplicitous candor" is the bewildering phrase splashed across the cover of this strange collection of short stories, vignettes and little asides. The collection also includes an original screenplay based on the life of Frances Farmer, the 1930s Hollywood movie star. Stories about Farmer generally focus on her behavioral and emotional problems, her drinking and her rebelliousness. This one takes place in an insane asylum after she is committed. The screenplay may be the best thing in the collection: Although it deals with a mind in chaos, it is coherent and compelling. The title story is a blur by comparison, seeming as incomplete as the title itself. It involves a nameless woman who thinks a man is watching her. But she wonders if she only imagines him. She thinks he is someone other than the lover who left her or the father who died; she thinks this unknown man may be the one who will not leave her. Well-represented throughout are Angst and irony, drugs and sex, careless connections and wry humor.

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