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IN BRIEF

Fiction

July 21, 1996|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

BAILEY'S BEADS by Terry Wolverton (Faber & Faber: $22.95, 186 pp.) Terry Wolverton, who lives in Los Angeles, is the author of a fine collection of poems, "Black Slip," and the editor of two collective volumes of fiction by gay male and lesbian writers. "Bailey's Beads" is the story of Djuna and Bryn, although "story" is probably the wrong word for this brief, fragmented glimpse into a relationship.

As the novel opens, Bryn is hospitalized after a car accident and goes into a coma. We know very little about her. She is busy, she is popular, she is well-organized, and she is a writer. Her mother, Vera, whom she hates, comes to sit at her bedside. Djuna, her partner, is a photographer. Bryn's poems and the manuscript of a novel called "Splinters" help to describe the body on the bed at the center of the novel.

In "Splinters," a needy narrator appeals directly to her readers (almost always an annoying, intrusive ploy): "I want to step out from behind the veil. That's why I want to talk to you. Why I want you not to be fooled. . . . Even when I lie to you, it's real."

Bryn emerges from the coma with no memory of the preceding five years--in other words, no memory of her relationship with Djuna. The question: Why is it that when authors write to be exposed and understood, they so often write in incomprehensible fragments?

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