Wednesday, July 06, 2011
THE BOLERO OF ANDI ROWE by Toni Plummer
Toni Margarita Plummer is a former editor of mine so when I heard that her first collection of short stories had just been published I wanted to take a look. I'm not sure what I expected but what I got is one of the most original and elegantly told collection of literary stories I've read in years.
THE BOLERO OF ANDI ROWE charts the Rowe family and its lives in the San Gabriel Valley. We see three generations and the disparate ways they respond to life in Los Angeles. The images and the feeling of everyday life in the Latino community are presented with powerful simplicity and memorable detail.
I especially liked the stories with the sisters Andi and Olivia. In "Olivia's Roses" we see the difficulty she is having wither boyfriend Anthony, a strange teen the family disapproves of. Especially her grandmother. It is sad, funny, wise and takes us inside the dynamics of a close Latino family.
One of the finest stories, "The Desert in Green," gives us a look at illegal immigration that offers poetry instead of punditry. Plummer's ability to bring characters to ambiguous life--no easy answers here--and to play these lives off against her place descriptions (perfect indelible descriptions of city and countryside alike) make her stories readable again and again.
In "All The Sex is West" Plummer enriches the undertone of sexuality inherent in her tales of Andi and Olivia. Here we have the singles bars scene and the icy temptations of stranger danger. Plummer goes for it here--sex, droll and astute perception, humor, and the foibles of trying to find a friend or a lover in transit, whichever comes first. This one is like a Charlie Parker riff.
Toni Plummer is on her way. These stories will be with me for a long, long time. You know, the way real literature always is.