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August 07, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

THE PIANO TUNER by Peter Meinke (University of Georgia Press: $11.95; 156 pp.). Meinke's short stories depict people caught in alarming situations: Their inability to cope with anything outside normal experience reveals the decay of American society. In "Alice's Brother," a woman unnerved by her sibling's surgery delivers a desperate monologue reminiscent of a Dorothy Parker story; "Sealink" opens with the wonderfully incongruous line, "Emily had never hit a sheep before." Like Hans Christian Andersen's Emperor, Meinke's people stand exposed before the world, struggling to hide their vulnerability.

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