Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

IN BRIEF

Fiction

August 28, 1994|CHRIS GOODRICH

DISCOVERING AMERICA: Stories by Liza Wieland (Random House: $20; 268 pp.) In the first and perhaps best story in this collection, "Tommy Wadell," friends tell the adolescent narrator Augusta that she should sign up for ballroom dancing because "We're all clumsy larvae, and they want to make us into social butterflies." Augusta knows better: "I get this picture in my head of butterflies becoming moths," she says, "flying into lit candles and coming out with their wings singed, then sending themselves straight back into the flames." Yes, most of the stories in this collection cover familiar love-and-growing-up territory, but they are invariably accomplished, often dealing with odd and difficult love and maturation that occurs surprisingly late in life. The cloistered young women in "The Columbus School for Girls" have crushes on their English teacher, but get an inkling of love's complexity when they become acquainted with his wife on a field trip to Emily Dickinson's house; in "Lessons and Carols," a treehouse-building tomboy doesn't want her favorite lumberyard to go out of business, but its condemnation allows her to see that the supposedly low-class lumberyard workers meant something to her mother. Some of the tales are quite funny--in "Faye Gold's Story," a widow recalls her courtship and marriage to an illiterate, leathered motorcyclist--and one is almost epic in scope, the novella-length, somewhat unfocused title story. It's the language rather than the plots that keeps this collection moving along, though--along with the occasional insights, as when the precocious high school student says, "Tests are the easy part. It's what you have to learn on your own that causes all the trouble."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|