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IN BRIEF

Fiction

November 06, 1994|ERIKA TAYLOR

CHELSEA GIRLS by Eileen Myles (Black Sparrow: $13; 276 pp.) Oddly enough, the worst thing about "Chelsea Girls," by Eileen Myles is also the best. Ego. Myles collection of short stories is so unabashedly solipsistic, so confidant in its own self-absorption, that she takes chances and has pay-offs few other writers would be willing to risk.

The main character--who is named Eileen Myles--is a lesbian alcoholic with no money, no job and no qualms about mooching from other people. The writing is nearly identical in every piece, so it feels like a chopped-up, digressive autobiography rather than conventional short stories. Here is Myles describing her photography on the front of a book of poems: " . . . I stand with these crooked bangs and big bags under my eyes against the white wall of my apartment. You can see the buzzer about maybe a foot and a half from my right shoulder. My face looks puffy and shapeless, fortunately I have kind of a big mouth so it sort of works."

It would be easy to dismiss "Chelsea Girls" as poetic hot air if Myles weren't so smart and funny. Somehow, she manages to hold our attention in spite of the closed-in quality of her work. This is writing with big courage, big talent and a big self image. It would be really interesting to see what Myles might do facing the world instead of the mirror.

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