The first story, of a girl who oscillates between fear and excitement prior to stealing a handbag for the first time, didn't impress me, the character development being too bi-polar. "Moloch" features a girl living in a trailer who gets pregnant, gives birth without help, then abandons the baby in the trailer with a hungry dog who for a while is given the point-of-view. I liked "The Escapee" - in the desert a man recalls previous similar episodes, then sees a boy (who might be a mirage of his earlier self) who gives him food then betrays him. Then there are stories about a gang-bang rape, the loss of a special childhood place, a girlfriend who dies in a car-crash, 2 girls who run away from a boring life (swindling themselves through France and Italy until the law catches up with them when one of them becomes ill), a van of illegal immigrants, a thief (in the form of an interview), a rather fantastical story ("Yondaland") where the haunt of a girl who bunks off school is being demolished, and finally a story where the younger brother of a boy who left home in his early teens also leaves home early.
So there's a lot of low-life, with enough variety to maintain my interest. Just about all of the stories feature -
- Stares that are nearly as palpable as touch
- Hearts suddenly beating quickly
- Unexplained sudden dips in mood - like La Nausee. E.g. "I was gradually seized with a sense of dread. There was an odd feeling about everything, something like apprehension or maybe a deeply repressed fear, not founded upon anything real" (p.89)
- The Birdcage (The truth of the matter is, one must first know, and be acquainted with these harsh realities. If not, they come across, as someone standing on their soapbox crying out in monotonous voice, of how those who allow these atrocities to continue are as much to blame for the suffering of their fellow mankind/humankind then those who crack the whip. This is what leads “The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts,” to become monotonous in its reading)
- Kirkus review (A fascinating tour of the wild side, conducted by a writer who has been surprising us for over forty years)