California Transit: Stories

Overview

“From the world that could not be saved, the storyteller salvages small, strange stuff and assembles it into a narrative of alarming beauty and mystery and sadness.”—from the introduction by Carole Maso

Southern California: land of dislocation and assimilation, a place Diane Lefer knows well. In California Transit, she uses conversational prose and macabre wit to zero-in on a Mexican woman detained indefinitely by immigration officials, isolating her from her American family; a zoo employee considering what to do...

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Overview

“From the world that could not be saved, the storyteller salvages small, strange stuff and assembles it into a narrative of alarming beauty and mystery and sadness.”—from the introduction by Carole Maso

Southern California: land of dislocation and assimilation, a place Diane Lefer knows well. In California Transit, she uses conversational prose and macabre wit to zero-in on a Mexican woman detained indefinitely by immigration officials, isolating her from her American family; a zoo employee considering what to do with a euthanized antelope’s head; and, in the title novella, a lonely woman, riding buses all day, who cannot avert the violence building within her. This collection explores the difference between justice and law through a lens unfiltered by moralistic or didactic intention. Like a surveillance camera meant to record crime, not stop it, Lefer presents a world gone wrong, not because of people’s hatred for one another but because of their impossible, unfulfilled yearning to connect.

Diane Lefer is the author of two previous collections, The Circles I Move In and Very Much Like Desire, and the novel Radiant Hunger. She lives in Los Angeles, where she is an artistic associate of Playwrights’ Arena, volunteers with the Program for Torture Victims, and serves on the animal behavior observation team of the research department at the Los Angeles Zoo. She teaches in the MFA writing program at Vermont College of the Union Institute & University.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Following up on two earlier story collections (The Circles I Move In and Very Much Like Desire) and a novel (Radiant Hunger), Lefer offers a sunshine noir's-worth of uneasy left coast tales. "At the Site Where Vision Is Most Perfect" documents what happens when a longtime Van Nuys resident is detained by immigration officials and becomes a victim of, and witness to, brutish acts of racism committed in the name of homeland security; that she is a Mexican woman named Clifford Pearlstein is just one of the ironic details Lefer uses to heighten the contradictions. A zoo worker's morbidly compelling description of transporting an antelope head drives "Alas, Falada!" while the narrator of "Angle and Grip," who is reeling from a miscarriage and from the death of her husband in a freak accident, signs on to a neighbor's plan to manufacture and sell "love dolls": "Apparently I said something about men being dolls, all manufactured in the same fucked up factory and damaged beyond repair." Lefer's staccato prose adds urgency to her suburban grotesques, giving a disquieting look at everyday lives that make little progress in transit. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A series of stories linked by their Southern California setting and their spirit of dislocation. The characters in Lefer's collection (Very Much Like Desire, 2000, etc.) are in a place they don't feel they belong. Displacement is most obvious in the title story, a novella about a social-justice lawyer who moves from New York to San Pedro to escape her past (one that includes a haunting, abusive lover and dangerous work in Mississippi). She befriends another drifter, and they travel to Mexico, where they are even more out of place. In "At the Site Where Vision Is Most Perfect," a Mexican woman faces deportation for a crime she was coerced into confessing decades earlier, while her American husband and son try to understand life without her. "Naked Chinese People" deals with racial stereotype, as a white woman tries to understand her feelings for her white husband and black ex, among others. In "The Atlas Mountains," a woman who calls tech support for help with her computer contemplates an affair with the immigrant worker because she is intrigued by his voice. Other stories are more abstract, such as "Alas, Falada!," in which a zoo employee goes on the lam with the antelope head she is assigned to transport. Lefer smacks readers hard over the head with her litany of important, but conventional and overused, themes, and her experimental prose (alternating narrators every other sentence, for example) is distracting. Entirely ordinary, despite clearly painstaking attempts not to be.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932511475
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2007
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Diane Lefer is the author of two previous collections, The Circles I Move In and Very Much Like Desire, and the novel, Radiant Hunger. She lives in Los Angeles where she works with the Playwrights' Arena, the Program for Torture Victims, and the LA Zoo. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Foreword   Carole Maso     xi
Naked Chinese People     1
Alas, Falada!     15
How Much an Ant Can Carry     27
At the Site Where Vision Is Most Perfect     41
The Atlas Mountains     99
Angle and Grip     107
California Transit     119
The Prosperity of Cities and Desert Places     207
The Author     237
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