Geoffrey Fox's Reviews > Red Ant House: Stories

Red Ant House by Ann Cummins
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Jul 16, 2012

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Read in January, 2003

12 stories, previously published in Hayden's Ferry Review (1); McSweeney's (3); The New Yorker (3); A Room of One's Own (1); Sonora Review (1). Psychological subtlety and detailed, vivid description of settings, especially western US deserts and mountains. Several stories take p.o.v. of an adolescent girl -- either white or Navajo -- on or near a Navajo reservation. The McSweeney's stories are the strangest, "The Hypnotist's Trailer" being a magical realist allegorical fable about corrupt petty power further corrupting its holder (the hypnotist takes a belly button from a woman, turns it into things large and small, and finally find it has grown and adhered to his hand). Cummins often develops a story to an approaching crisis and ends it -- sometimes in mid-air, as in "Billy by the Bay" (desperate Billy jumps off a pier). "Headhunter" (from Hayden's Ferry Rev) leaves us wondering what the heroine will do now that she has unintentionally caused a man's death on the highway; she seems weird enough to do almost anything, but we don't know. My favorite is "Bitterwater" (from the New Yorker), told by the white woman who has married a powerfully attractive, crazy and usually drunk Navajo; will she take him back from the detox center or not? Don't know. I would read more work by this surprising writer.
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