The world that prolific poet, art critic and man-about-New York Yau (Crossing Canal Street) creates in his first collection of short fiction is not a happy or comfortable place. Through different first-person narrators in each of 13 stories, Yau portrays a sadomasochistic brother, an exhibitionist, suburban Boston cockroaches and crazy ladies, Lower East Side heroin addicts and prostitutes. The narrators share very strong yet raw powers of observation, ambiguous racial status and positions outside conventional manners and laws. The title story about a couple visiting Hawaii is perhaps the most subtle and effective. While confronting the limits of their ability to communicate with each other, the two happen upon a surreal imitation cowboy town that becomes a metaphor for the strangeness in their relationship. Yau's prose is somewhat less experimental than his poetry, has a certain deadpan sensibility whether he's being plain (``A hundred and forty dollars, seven crisp twenties'') or perverse (``I guess it's one thing to sleep with a dog, and another thing to sleep with a guy dressed up like a dog''). But even humorous moments (like when a New York cabbie takes the liberty to tell one narrator ``There's no Chinese left in you'') are cast in loneliness. Throughout, there is a self-consciousness about the difficulty and boundlessness of fiction, as well as an implied glorification of those living off the proverbial beaten path. (Feb.)
Art critic and creative writing instructor Yau (In the Realm of Appearances: The Art of Andy Warhol, LJ 9/1/93) has written an intriguing collection of 13 short stories, most seen here for the first time. The majority of the stories are set in Manhattan, often in seedy bars. The main characters are a variety of young men of mixed Asian-European descent. As a character in "A Little Momento from the Boys" sums them up, "We spend our nights characterizing ourselves in derogatory terms. It is the only defense we know." In the title story, a man of Chinese-Dutch descent describes his elation when he is mistaken for a local while vacationing in Hawaii; he is surprised because he usually doesn't fit in anywhere. These characters living on the fringes of society will not be considered sympathetic by everyone, but their stories are recommended for large fiction collections.-Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati Technical Coll.