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September 26, 1985 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-09-26

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ARTS

hThe Michiaan Daily

Thursday, September 26, 1985

Page 5

F

A

dip in

'Greasy

Lake'

chills, fulfills

Greasy Lake & Other Stories
T Coraghessan Boyle
'Viking Press
229 Pages, $16.95
THE 15 WORKS collected in
Greasy Lake and Other Stories,
by T. Coraghessan Boyle, create a
pyrotechnic scrutiny of man's
sobering limitations. and of his
frightening potential. Boyle's unset-
tling black humor and wizard-like
flair for characterization conjure
personas that accost the reader with
darker areas of the human mind.
By Jacqueline Raznik
The stories can be divided into four
themes of human downfall: self-
determination, passionate ruin,
Dideological collapse, and misan-
thropic estrangement. The gravity of
these themes is woven with Boyle's
light-hearted irony into compelling,
but uncomplicated situations which
often produce discomforted chuckles.
In three of the stories, Boyle distur-
bingly and comically illustrates what
can occur when we overstep our bounds
by attempting to manipulate natural
order.
In "A Bird in the Hand," Eugene
Schiefflin, a wealthy amateur or-
mithologist, becomes obsessed with
bringing every bird mentioned in
Shakespearian works to America. A
century later, Schiefflin's dream
becomes a nightmare.
"The New Moon Party" is a fan-

tastic and telling account of political
hysteria, in which George L.
Thorkelson makes the ultimate cam-
paign promise: the construction of "A
new moon soon." As President,
Thorkelson unveils his man-made
cosmic jewel. The result is horrific.
In "Caviar," Nat, a fisherman, and
his wife pay a medical student to be
the surrogate mother of their child.
They welcome the student into their
home so the couple can share the ex-
periences of the pregnancy. Unfor-
tunately, Nat gives the freckle-face
surrogate his unrequited love, and
learns that the cost of an egg (caviar)
is a luxury he can ill afford. Boyle
brilliantly depicts the futile arrogan-
ce of those who disturb the natural
order.
Many of Boyle's stories have a
rebellious, and at times, a misan-
thropic flavor. The title story relates
the violent tale of 'an adolescent and

his buddies' realization that they are
as scrid and stagnant as their favorite
hangout - the polluted, lifeless
Greasy Lake.
When a magnificent bird is spotted
on the roof of Sidor's Grocery in
t"Rara Avis," a rebellious teenage
boy hatefully discovers in the bird
what he refuses to admit in himself.
"The Long Haul" recounts the
chilling fate of a newly declared and
blatantly exploited survivalist who
moves his family to a cabin in Mon-
tana, miles from civilization, only to
find his survivalist neighbor is an ar-
med psychopath. One cannot com-
pletely alienate himself from society
without disastrous results, as Boyle
caustically illustrates.
When passion clouds reason, the
end can endanger more than the im-
mediate people ivolved. Think of the
Cold War, nuclear proliferation,
events in Hungary, Korea, and the U-
2 incident. What if the cause for these
tarnishes on our recent past were an
unchecked international love triangle
involving the heads of the Soviet and
American states? This bizzare and
seemingly absurd possibility
examined in "Ike and Nina" reminds
the reader that the President is still
only a man.
"In Rupert Beersley and the
Beggar Master of Sivani-Hoota,"
Beersley is a celebrated English
detective whose latest case involves
the kidnapped children of the Indian
nawab, Singh. Beersley mistakes the
nawab's governess for the daughter
of the woman who betrayed him at the
altar. Revenge and cocaine move
Rupert to ungrounded action leading
to his humiliating and violent
dismissal. Boyle frighteningly
illustrates how excessive passion

dreamlike (and often nightmarish)
stories with his remarkable use of the
metaphor. In "Caviar," he begins by
contrasting spring rebirth with death.
Crocuses and dead man's fingers
were poking through the dirt along
the walk. The image is both original
and effective in creating the desired
eeriness. In "Greasy Lake" Boyle
mentions that a single second, big
as a zeppelin floated by, a striking
reference to the passage's inter-
minable point in time. In "Whales
Weep," a satirical account of en-
vironmentalists, two mating whales
are described as re-enacting the bir-
thday of Surtsey, the con-
solidation of the moon, the erup-
tion of Vesuvius, making the
physical magnitude of what is tran-
spiring much easier to grasp.
Irony is another skill at which Boyle
is adept. In "Whales Weep" he
describes an environmentalist
photographer and his girlfriend. The
girl is clad in a lynx coat, seal skin
boots, and of course, a "LET THEM

Boyle
... presents cautionary tales

LIVE" T-shirt. "Greasy Lake"
describes a young hood practiced in
the "social etiquettes," which
naturally refer to the ability to roll a
joint as thin as a tootsie-pop stick
while gunning a beat-up Ford over a
blacktop road.
An extensive vocabulary adds sub-
tle and effective shades to Boyle's
language. In parts, however, words
that elude even Webster such as
"sussurus" and "jalebis" distract the
reader instead of embracing him into
the fantasy.
Another favorite technique of Boyle
is beginning a story with a quote. Ap-
plicable lines from Bruce Springsteen
to Shakespeare are used as potent
prologues to his stories.
Greasy Lake and Other Stories is a
must-read for those who appreciate
philosophy, satire, and a well-crafted
stories. The diversity of its subjects,
themes, and settings enable Boyle to
entrance the readers into his world of
unnerving, thought provoking fan-
tasy.

leads to folly. .
The fourth theme permeating this
collection is the collapse of ideology.
In "All Shook Up" an Elvis Presley
look-alike finally realizes that the
king is dead and can never live again.
"Not a Leg to Stand On" recounts
the moral dilemma facing a crippled
man who learns of the illegal dealings
supporting his nursing home.
A devout Leninist in the "Overcoat
II" makes the sobering discovery of
the corruption plaguing Russia.
Boyle's keen sense of satire confronts
the reader with an unnerving picture
of human foibles.
Bowle succeeds in setting the

Records
Squeeze - Cosi Fan Tutti
Frutti (A&M)
At the height of their fame, which
was considerably stronger back in
their native U.K. than here, Squeeze
songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn
Tilbrook were being praised by critics
everywhere as the next Lennon and
McCartney. Although a lofty com-
pliment for anyone to live up to, the
off-beat, clever pop songs that
Squeeze recorded made their albums
uniquely diverse and pleasantly
sophisticated.
Three years after the break-up of
this talented band, Squeeze fans
everywhere rejoiced with the news
that the band had re-grouped, and
have been anxiously awaiting the
release of the newest album,
featuring the original line-up with the
exception of bassist Harry Kakoulli
(replaced by Keith Wilkinson).
Sadly enough, Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti
falls- short of anything deservant of
such excitement. Taking an ultra-
electronic turn for the worse,
producer Laurie Latham ( Paul
Young, The Stranglers) has drowned

out or torn apart any of the originality
of feeling this band once possessed.
"Atmospheric" effects lunge in and
out of the songs, and the arrangemen-
ts are so scattered and disjointed that
the pieces end up lacking any sort of
cohesion. To make matters worse,
those witty lyrical talents that earned
Difford and Tilbrook acclaim seem to
have vanished, as well.
Knowing what Squeeze is capable of
is exactly what makes Cosi so in-
tolerably offensive. "By Your Side" is
probably the most inane piece the
band has ever recorded. Difford's
soulful tenor is wiped out by studio ef-
fects as he oh-so Paul Young-ly croons
the lines, when you're- down and
you're lonely, come onto me I'll be
your only...
"I Learnt How To Pray" contains
such pretentious lyrics as I learnt
how to pray every night to relieve
the pain deep inside...and I was
serious with a furrowed brow. So,
who cares? Once these two
songwriters concocted some of the
wittiest observations on relationships
ever put into a pop song, like Singles
remind me of kisses, albums
remind me of plans... Now, they

have resorted to revealing only
shallow, trite platitudes.
Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti does, however
offer one brief highlight - the eerie
single, "Last Time Forever."
Representative of the band's new-
found enthusiasm for electronic
studio effects, this piece is an ex-
periment that does work. Copped
mystery movie music and spooky ef-
fects add to the song, making it rather
campy and off-beat. In this song;
Jools Holland's slow-motion, tinkling'
keyboards, and other delayed in-
struments contribute to the at-
mosphere. However, on the album as
a whole these studio sounds become a
muddled mess in which the vocalists
often seem trapped.
Squeeze fans beware. Perhaps the
Lennon/McCartney hype was
premature. Perhaps the three year
hiatus was detrimental to the band's
creative health. Perhaps Laurie
Latham is not the producer for the
job. Most likely, the answer is all of
the above. Hopefully, Squeeze will be
able to "re-come-back" on a more
successful level the next time they cut
an album. --Beth Fertig

" IN CONCERT
Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m.
MICHIGAN THEATER
Reserved seats $12.00 at the Union Ticket Office, Schoolkids' Records,
the Michigan Theater Box Office and all Ticket World locations.
Dial 99-MUSIC or 763-TKTS for further information. This concert made possible,
in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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