Clever, confident and, at times, even poignant, this collection by the author of The Last Studebaker succeeds by showing ordinary, middle-class people in pursuit of everyday desires. In ``A Printer's Tale,'' a young editor slips his girlfriend's poems into a national magazine and then stands bewildered as his effort backfires on their relationship. In ``Independence Boulevard,'' a man finds that his longtime friend has matured, but in a way that troubles him. And in the title story, perhaps the collection's best, a teenage boy searches tentatively for a connection with one of his mother's college students. Certain surrealistic tales, such as ``The Last Customer'' and ``An Intruder,'' are slightly jarring in the midst of Hemley's otherwise realistic representations. But the stories generally mix well in tone and style. If Hemley has a consistent fault, it's that his writing is more accomplished on the level of sentence and scene than on structure; he tends to end too quickly, rushing toward a pointed last sentence before having allowed a tale to generate its full resonance. Yet the collection abounds with intriguing situations, skillfully rendered. (June)
Hemley, whose last fictive outing was a deft, quirky novel with a hung ending (The Last Studebaker, LJ 9/15/92), seems never to view life straight on. The result is a just-off-center universe where the unusual is allowed to be, or seem, usual-a universe like Lawrence Naumoff's, for example. The 16 stories here range from the retrospective title story about a boy, his mother's poetry group, and a mail-order listening device, to one involving the courtship of Daniel Boone and Shirley Temple (from a support group for people with-what else?-famous names), to a four-page visit to the queen's bedroom as she encounters a (very) unexpected intruder, to a story involving a date even more disastrous than its setting-the end of the world. Hemley's mix of offbeat circumstance, sharp characterization, and fluid writing will appeal to more sophisticated fiction readers. Recommended.-Robert E. Brown, Onondaga Cty. P.L., Syracuse, N.Y.
In the 15 slightly surreal stories collected here, Hemley delineates his vulnerable characters' crises of faith and confidence in winsome scenarios. In the touching title story, young Peter sends away for a listening device; he then eavesdrops on adult conversations, trying to crack the code that grown-ups use, but he discovers that "you could have all the Big Ears in the world lined up, and still you wouldn't be able to make sense of what people tell each other." In "Hobnobbing with the Nearly Famous," Daniel Boone starts a support group for people with famous names; however, when he discovers he was named for his chiropodist uncle, not the legendary pioneer, he finds that he no longer needs to attend the meetings. Hemley, author of the highly praised novel "The Last Studebaker" (1992), seems to know the logic of the heart, and he shares it with us in these provocative, imaginative tales.