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J. J. Steinfeld.

Charlottetown, Ragweed Press, c1983.
133pp, paper, $8.95.
ISBN 0-920304-28-l.

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Tony Cosier.

Volume 12 Number 5
1984 September

The stories in this collection are unified by style. The emotions are always strong. The protagonists are in agony. They are angry and work themselves up over the course of the narratives to climactic acts of vengeance. There is nearly always an ironic twist: the tattoo often ends up on the wrong arm.

Steinfeld limits each story like a classical tragedy. He begins near the end. He limits the number of characters. He packs in flashbacks with less concern for verisimilitude than impact.

The grimness of his subject matter he tempers with wit. The superb ending in "A Bullet for Perlmutter" is ingeniously structured. "A Television-watching Artist" is lightened with slapstick. The legless cripple of "Missing Limbs and Love" brushes through his narrative with perverse zest.

To offset his tendency to let a gloomy protagonist dominate his viewpoint, Steinfeld often inserts brief twists of omniscience to take in the antagonist's view. He constantly changes the nature of his protagonist from story to story, running the gamut of standard contemporary literary subjects: the disgruntled housewife, the rebellious adolescent, the professor on a fling. He balances protagonist and antagonist from story to story, matching his legless protagonist in "Missing Limbs and Love" with the antagonist in a wheelchair in "The Surprise Party," spinning both sides of the husband-wife and parent-child conflicts, keeping the protagonist convict from using the knife yet letting the antagonist daughter use her revolver.

'The Chess Master" is an excellent concluding piece for the collection, a tour de force that juxtaposes a young Jewish author's vengeance on a grocer who had once been a Nazi with the boy's ironic affection for the grocer's brother.

Tony Cosier, Confederation H. S., Nepean ON.
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