Jayne Anne Phillips has always been a master of portraiture, both in her widely acclaimed novels and in her short fiction. The stories in Fast Lanes demonstrated the breadth of her talent in a tour de force of voices, offering elegantly rendered views into the lives of characters torn between the liberation of detachment and the desire to connect.
Three stories are collected in this edition for the first time: in "Alma," and adolescent daughter is made the confidante of her lonely mother; "Counting" traces the history of a dommed love affair; and "Callie" evokes memories of the haunting death of a child in 1920's West Virginia. Along with the original seven stories from Fast Laneseach told in extraordinary first person narratives that have been hailed by critics as virtuoso performancesthese incandescent portraits offer windows into the lives of an entire generation of Americans, demonstrating again and again why Jayne Anne Phillips remains one of our most powerful writers.
The seven short stories collected here clearly demonstrate the evolution of this gifted author's style and subject matter. The dazzling play of language and reckless protagonists of such tales as ``How Mickey Made It'' and ``Bluegill'' show a young writer in love with words and perhaps a little too enamored of life in the fast lane. ``Blue Moon'' and ``Bess'' are more conventionally written but equally fine; Phillips's style deepens as she turns her attention to more ordinary people with a new sensitivity and thoughtfulness. The latter two stories feature characters and situations from the 1984 novel Machine Dreams; they stand on their own but appear to be drawn from material left out of that book. In both the early tales, with their swaggering panache, and the more mature later work, there is evidence of a tremendously talented writer working to the limit of her powers at that particular moment. Judging from this collection, it seems as though there's nothing Phillips can't do. (April 21)