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By Blake de Pastino, Susan Schuurman, Jassica English

OCTOBER 27, 1997: 

The Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner
by Joseph Blotner, ed. (Vintage, paper, $19)

Of all the tortured geniuses to come out of the South, William Faulkner was probably the most prolifically tortured. Now, in honor of the centenary of his birth, Vintage has issued this collection of true rarities from the vaults of Faulkneriana. The Uncollected Stories offers three odd bodies of the Southern Gentleman's work: stories that have never been anthologized; stories that were later expanded into novels, and stories that are just now seeing print for the first time. All rough drafts and dry runs, they are still outstandingly effective--even the dogs that publishers never wanted--because they are undeniably Faulkner. His characters are all quiet victims of their own naive desires; they live in sweaty atmospheres and speak with drawled passions. For anyone interested in modern American writing, this is surely the book you didn't know you were missing. (BdeP)


Underworld
by Don DeLillo (Scribner, cloth, $27.50)

If nostalgia is an affliction, Don DeLillo is a very sick man. The restless, haunted characters of this monumental novel desperately long for the unattainable past. Heaven is none other than the Bronx, circa 1950, when people knew who they were: working-class Italian immigrants with real, tangible lives. DeLillo masterfully recreates the era by recalling the minute details of the neighborhood: the sounds, the smells, the banter between the butcher, the bookie and the ever-present mothers chasing after disobedient children. Even the most unrelated characters and topics imaginable are brought together in this expansive plot, precariously hinged on baseball and nuclear weapons. But on the way the reader must endure two distracting flaws: DeLillo's predilection for jumbled chronology and his tendency to write exasperating dialogue with either Jewish rhythms or Mafia overtones, no matter from whose mouth it emerges. (SS)


Hotel Sarajevo
by Jack Kersh (Turtle Point Press, paper, $13.95)

Alma is the fictionalized Anne Frank of this generation. Hers is the story of survival and becoming a woman in war-ravaged Sarajevo, where she lives in a tribal community of very young teens in an abandoned hotel. Hotel Sarajevo reads like a diary, portraying the complexity and innocence of the 13-year-old Alma who is less concerned with the invading sounds of shotgun thunder than with being wanted by the 15-year-old chief of the Jevos. Jack Kersh's prose is delicate yet raw ("In that instant he becomes for me those groans and those grasping, desperate hands. ... Closing my eyes, I see us as the dead lovers in the field.") Beauty and sensuality contrast tragedy and fear amongst the horrors of war, and the sexually flowering yet still painfully childlike Alma discovers, like Anne Frank, the nature of the human spirit. (JE)


Red Hot on a Silver Note
by Maketa Groves (Curbstone, paper, $10.95)

There's nothing that pisses me off more than seeing a black woman pigeon-holed as a "black woman poet." Her publicists beg for comparisons to Toni Cade Bambara or Maya Angelou and pray for Oprah Book of the Month endorsements. Maketa Groves is too diverse to fit this label. Long and slender, her poems wind outward like sinewy, wrinkled and fascinating fingers until--wham--they hit some gnarled knuckle bone of truth. Groves' poems are about Edgar Allen Poe's influence on her, Miles Davis, Yosemite, the Detroit ghetto, memories of her mother scrubbing the floor and her summer job pumping gas and "pumping up hearts" ("No gas fumes/ could match/ my fire-brand/ noxious ways"). Groves is no Angelou, no Bambara, no lady rapsinga. Her voice and style is what gives her poetic identity. (JE)

--Blake de Pastino, Susan Schuurman and Jessica English


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