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ON REAGAN THE MAN AND HIS PRESIDENCY By BONNIE MUER Send us $20 and we will send you an autographed copy of Ronnie Dugger’s acclaimed book on Ronald Reagan. \(Postage included; Texas residents Name Addiess City State Zip The Texas Observer 600 West 7th Austin, Texas 78701 THE POLITICS OF SAN ANTONIO Community, Progress, and Power Edited by David R. Johnson, John A. Booth, and Richard J. Harris Within a framework of the political history of San Antonio’s evolution since 1836, fourteen social scientists analyze the city from the perspectives of history, political science, geography, demography, and sociology. It is the story of the struggle of a local socioeconomic elite to win and hold political dominion in a complex multi-ethnic society. xiv, 248 pages. Cloth ISBN 0-8032-1178-3 $24.50 Paper University of Nebraska Press 901 N. 17th St. Lincoln 68588 Allen Hannay’s Love and Other Natural Disasters, which won the Texas Institute of Letters Award. Not that this book is bad; on the contrary, there are some very good stories here. Still I see no reason to be overly enthusiastic and underly critical because the book is written by one of our own and published locally. INTRODUCTION #3. In this attempt I mention the last story, “The Peeper,” a story about a grossly fat fellow who works in a department store sitting behind a two-way mirror in the dressing room, watching adolescents masturbate, NOW YOU CAN PUSH THE BUTTON TO STOP A NUCLEAR WAR. 800-528-6050 EXT. 99 cut holes in the cups of bras, pop pimples, and rub their faces with silk panties. From there I discuss how Zigal’s stories are filled with nuts, sickies, perverts, and other aberrations of the human spirit. COMMENT. I like the last introduction best because I can follow it by discussing how the peeper is physically, and thus symbolically, separated from other people. Zigal follows this motif in all his stories. In “Recycle,” a young male patient from an asylum irritates the customers in a laundromat, and when the manager tries to oust him, he hides in a dryer. “Eyes studied him nervously. He thought he saw the eyes of his mother and the doctor there, observing his every twitch. But no one seemed able to move. They were frozen on that screen before him.” In “Where the Heart Is,” a lonely, old lawyer sits in his son’s old room, looking out the window, waiting for him to return after eight years. “I want to be here when he sneaks down through the thicket that was once so intricately terraced. . . . When he does, in darkness or in the fullness of day, I will step out and confront him face to face.” In the other two stories the separation is not presented so symbolically, but the characters still make few connections with one another. In “Orphan of the West,” an aging singing cowboy cannot understand his adopted Vietnamese orphan. In “Casework,” a story about a psychologist and his Californiaesque household, everyone is separated by his or her neuroses and need to dominate. THE PROBLEM. I’ve been unable to complete the review because you said that Tom Zigal had referred to his stories as “experimental.” I keep reading these stories, balking at any comment I want to make, because I keep wondering how the hell these stories are experimental. Maybe the term is messing me up. You recall Annie Dillard’s comment in Living By Fiction: “Some people call it `metafiction,’ fabulation,’ `experimental,’ neo-Modernist,’ and, especially, ‘Post-Modernise; but I find all these terms misleading.” She prefers the term “contemporary modernist.” I can go along with that for Zigal’s book. The reason I can’t accept “experimental” is because I don’t think Zigal is experimenting. He isn’t doin g anything that William Gass, Donald Barthelme, or any of their generation haven’t done. Sure he writes about strange characters, flattening them on the page, forbidding the reader to understand or sympathize with them. But he has done little in demolishing time sequence, what Dillard calls “Time in Smithereens.” His settings are not that unusual and serve the narrative and thematic lines in traditional ways. And his points of view show no great experimenting except in my favorite story, “Casework,” which is told through a series of excerpts from the psychologist’s tape-recorded memoirs. THE FINAL QUESTION. Am I missing something? You remember the review the Observer published about Thomas Zigal’s first novel Playland. The reviewer said something like it was the best novel ever published in Texas. I have the feeling his statement, like the Austin Book Award, was a kind of local hyperbole. In my.. review I want to combat that. But more important I want to say something like Zigal has written five short stories that I think most people will . . . well, enjoy; that they aren’t perfect nor perfectly original; that although I don’t sympathize with the characters, several of them are memorable, even after six months; and that I hope to see more of his work. That’s enough, don’t you think? SO GET TO IT RIGHT NOW, and help me out with this thing. Thanks, LG 22 NOVEMBER 25, 1983