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Title: Small Craft Warnings: Stories (Signed First ...
Binding: Soft cover
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About this title
The indigo skies and lush vegetation of the contemporary West Coast belie the damaged souls and desperate alienation that lurk behind fading stucco walls and off the endless highways. The lives of women on the edge and beyond the margins have seldom been explored with as much power or insight as in these brilliant stories by award-winning novelist and poet Kate Braverman. In a world without succor, Braverman’s characters grope for meaning and solutions to their dilemmas. Our Lady of the 43 Sorrows must meet the bizarre needs of her severely brain-damaged mother as her own career as a soap-opera actress declines. The protagonist of "Pagan Night" waits with her unnamed and unwanted infant in a shabby zoo in Idaho while her partner buys dope and makes plans to reconstitute their failed rock band. And the precocious, awkward adolescent narrator of the title story watches as her elegant grandmother confronts the illness that will soon end the colorful life she has so enjoyed. Abandonment, in these wrenching stories, comes in many forms, and freedom is elusive and sometimes fraught with pain and terror. Braverman’s language is ripe, intense, as vivid as the sun-drenched California landscape, and her characters are contrary, unpredictable, and unforgettable. These haunting stories evoke the glittering expectations and shattering disappointments of the postmodern West.Review:
"We are all homeless women, crash victims, chance survivors," Kate Braverman announces in her lush, atmospheric collection of short fiction, Small Craft Warnings. Or, put another way, "Sometimes women must go traveling." The disassociated protagonists of these stories are travelers of a psychic if not a physical sort, homeless women by nature if not in fact. Living through the long, bright California of the soul, they find themselves seduced by the possibilities of simply walking away. An aging soap-opera star struggles to cope with her brain-damaged mother in "Our Lady of 43 Sorrows"; the teenager of "Hour of the Fathers" chafes at her visits to her newfound father, a disabled, mentally ill Vietnam vet. Oddly passive, these women dream of escape, not action. Even when the young homeless mother in "Pagan Night" plans to abandon her baby, it's as if she were reading about something that had already happened.
Braverman's prose is something of an acquired taste. An accomplished poet, she writes in highly rhythmic and figurative language, in metaphors that shimmy from concrete to abstract and back again in a way that can be disorienting, even claustrophobic. Why use one noun when three in a series will do? Mesh; aviaries; the odors of citrus and vanilla; porcelain teacups; candles, perfume, and blood: these are the incantations in Braverman's curious fictional spell. "Sin becomes a kind of flame, a blue friend warm in your hand," proclaims the grandmother in the title story, and if this sort of dialogue strikes you as contrived rather than lyrical, Small Craft Warnings may not be for you. For the less literal-minded, Braverman rewards the reader's attention with linguistic pyrotechnics that read like no one else writing fiction today. --Mary Park
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