By Deborah Eisenberg

Deborah Eisenberg's deeply etched and mysterious tales specialise in participants grappling with dislocations, ironies, and compromises levied by means of traditional truth and the shiny, troubling worlds her characters inhabit. With lyrical and sparkling prose, Eisenberg pries open lifestyle to discover the hidden

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Example text

When she was standing she followed the grunts with a long, low whistle. "It's becoming a powerful effort for me to get around,'' she complained. Aunt Lil, who was thin, had sat across the fire in a straight chair. "The trouble with you, Sally, is you're getting fat," she cried in a dry voice. She sat very straight and leaned forward from the hips as she shifted the snuff to the other side of her mouth and spat toward the coffee can on the hearth. Two drops of the 60 THE STARLESS AIR brown liquid splattered on the ash dusted hearth like raindrops on dusty earth.

The five boys undressed and pulled on their bathing suits. Johnny woke the old man who was asleep in the passage between the two rooms and they rented a boat from him and rowed out to the middle of the lake. On every side pine trees circled the shore, high into the sky, and cast shadows that jutted over the edge of the water. The wide surface of the lake was bright and smooth, and glittering in the wake of the boat. In turn they dived from the back of the boat down into the green depths below the surface where the cold water peeled the perspiration from their bodies as sharply as a knife.

He had been remembering specific girls again, their flesh blossoming and fading in the dark red space before his closed eyes, and thinking that he would never see them or any others again. But he was not angry. He was too weak to be angry. He wanted only either to be well again or to be dead. Death was like everything else in life, and he accepted it. He had gotten only love out of life-perhaps he had gotten life out of only love-and it was better to die of what he had lived by than to die of something which had no connexion to him, better to die of love than to be run over by an automobile driven by someone he did not even know.

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