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Mickey holds off that world by solitude, exercise, even manic success at ping-pong and handball. But his acute sensibility is alert to the absurdity of this micro-neighborhood and his shadowy role in it, and he’s uneasy at the way the place and the people stick to him despite his efforts to stay loose, to imagine himself distinct and independent, to believe in the certainty of the money in the mail. He works odd jobs, flirts with file clerks and waitresses, makes a few tentative friends, but he has no money and no place in the world, and that vacuum slowly begins to suck him dry. One character describes the situation baldly: “Oh, well, the people who live there, they sometimes receive checks or cash. Or they’re lonely and the open mail from their children or relatives. People need these things. Sometimes I think getting mail is the only hope some of them have. It may be their last contact with a world that had to have been better for them than the one they’re living at the YMCA, all alone in those rooms.” It’s an often harrowing tale, in the ordinary sense virtually plotless, and though it’s well-crafted, the novel has little of the insouciance of Gilb’s stories in The Magic of Blood. For his first novel, Gilb has saddled himself with a neo-modernist fable about alienation among the broken-down and broken-hearted, and while in the strictest sense he brings it off well, The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna leaves a taste bitter enough to make one wonder if the game was worth the candle. It’s an intentionally anti-heroic, anti-romantic taleGilb has a good bit of ironic fun at the expense of the lurid Westerns Mickey is fond of reading in bedbut inside this constricted, airless universe, it’s hard to empathize with characters all so clearly at the end of their collective rope. But perhaps Gilb has a notion, hard to dispute, that in the late 20th century TexAmerica, we all of us could use a little bit of slack. I’d like to see him take up one of the families that float quickly through the stories of The Magic of Blood, and locate that drifting American male epitomized by Mickey into generations of grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, cousins and neighbors, wives and lovers. Perhaps Mickey would turn out much the same, but we might get a better feel for the larger world he has mysteriously fled. I think that Gilb-ian novel is somewhere down the line. In a way, he’s done it already. Read together, these two books announce a major new voice in American writing, and a sense that the literature is shifting along with the language in directions unimaginable in those regionalist fictions coming out of the east coast of high rises and highfashion denim. Gilb knows the stories of those who built the high rises, who sewed the denim, and he tells them as clearly and precisely as any craftsman who knows and is proud of his trade. ANDERSON SI COMPANY COFFEE TEA SPICES TWO JEFFERSON SOIJARE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78731 512 453-1533 Send me your list. Name Street City Zip CLASSIFIEDS ORGANIZATIONS WORK for single-payer National Health Care. Join GRAY PANTHERS, intergenerational advocates against ageism and for progressive policies promoting social and economic justice. $20 individual, $35 family. 3710 458-3738. TEXAS AIDS NETWORK dedicated to improving HIV/AIDS policy and funding in Texas. Individual membership $25, P.O. Box 2395, Austin, TX LESBIAN/GAY DEMOCRATS of Texas Our Voice in the Party. Membership $15, P.O. Box 190933, Dallas, 75219. SICK OF KIWNG? Join the Amnesty International Campaign Against the WORK FOR OPEN, responsible government in Texas. Join Common Cause/Texas, 1615 Guadalupe, #204, TEXAS TENANTS’ UNION. 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