Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

IN BRIEF

Fiction

February 16, 1992|CHRIS GOODRICH

THE QUICK: A Novella and Stories by Agnes Rossi (W. W. Norton: $17.95; 156 pp.). Any writer who calls a book of fiction "The Quick" is asking for trouble, inviting comparison to Joyce's "The Dead" and signaling a tendency toward melodrama and affectation. Agnes Rossi knows what she's doing, however, for this book is remarkably unpretentious and thoughtful. Her theme, as "The Quick's" title implies, is the effect of the dead on the living, and in the story "Scrawl," she sums up nicely one aspect of that effect: "The dead offer no resistance. They are what you want them to be when you want them to be it." Rossi's characters aren't so much haunted by the dead as defined by them, playing out their lives, usually unwittingly, in patterns set by those who have gone before. In the title novella--so deft and knowing that the other stories pale by comparison--Marie Russo sits on her apartment steps to comprehend her bullying father's death, and finds not forgiveness or understanding but a new form of self-awareness; she remembers in detail a friend's young widowhood decades earlier, and it's clear that Marie wishes she had experienced the sort of love that would have allowed her deep, honest grief at its loss. It's a rare writer who can treat big subjects without falling into sentimentality, oversimplification, or showy theatrics, but Rossi is such a one.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|