This is a debut story collection by a mostly professor, occasional fiction writer from Florida. Bob Shacochis grew up in Virginia and went to the Peace Corps in the Caribbean (lucky) and these stories, now written in his 30s, seem to be part of the results of that set of experiences. I haven’t come across a more packaged and coaxed collection of short stories in a while–for example, there’s a cheaply printed picture at the beginning of each story that evokes the kind of cheap t-shirts you might buy near the beach. It’s also an incredibly 1980s American collection–it’s not by Vintage Contemporaries, but the Penguin imprint version of the same, and each story has the veneer of MFA polished sheen of that period. And of course it’s from 1985.
The tone is breezy and conversation and has some feelings of Thomas McGuane or Barry Hannah, but with less of the seriousness or impact. The stories would be pretty good in a lot of ways if they had been written 50 years earlier by a British ex-pat or Colonial figure, but by the 1980s, they feel both of date and anachronistic. In addition, they feel out of place for an American, whose ventures in the Caribbean do not have the same weight and history of British Empire.
And of course the ventriloquism and offensiveness of the Islanders’ native speech is too evocative of Southern novels of the early 20th century without any of the kinds of excuses we tend to make for them.