Reviews for Brutal Language of Love : Stories


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 March 2001
"I did it against my better judgment" is an old saying usually accompanied by a rueful shake of the head. The characters in Erian's short stories seem possessed of less-than-better judgment well seasoned with rue, acting out signals from a shadowy part of the psyche coordinating with a peculiarly complicated portion of the heart. A new bride finds herself strongly attracted to her father-in-law. Joyce and her brother Farrell bemoan their mother's obsessive need to meddle in strangers' lives, only to see themselves outbidding her in an effort to do the same. Vanessa, who dislikes wearing clothes, torments her modest sister with her nudity as an adolescent, then in college takes up with a superconservative Egyptian exchange student who's distressed at most of her clothes, sorting her closet into two categories: things she should and should not wear. He abandons her (wearing a forbidden bikini) in a lake, but, paradoxically, she marries him. Isn't it funny how those who make us shake our heads can be oddly endearing? ((Reviewed March 15, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2001 February #1
Some of the nine stories in this debut collection have appeared in literary magazines, and they have the some of the subjects common in such venues: gender issues, bad girl sexuality, weird families, slacker students. But Erian fails to distinguish herself stylistically, offering instead slight fictions that can seem downright generic.At her best, Erian discovers the brutality of love not just in sexual relations but in the twisted things family members do to one another. The fine, uncharacteristic "Still Life With Plaster" is told from a young girl's point of view; she and her brother live with their grandparents while their divorced mother goes to school, and the old folks, while seemingly mean and cantankerous, are really quite loving and affectionatein their own unsophisticated way. The grown-up brother and sister in "When Animals Attack" are more explicitly brutal: they hate their mother so intensely that when she sends a young runaway to seek their help, they badger him and encourage him to run away again. Most of Erian's pieces involve young women trying to figure out sex and the politics of desire: the older, promiscuous college student in "Standing Up to the Superpowers" uses her sexuality to tease professors into good grades--but fails anyway; the chubby 13-year-old in "Alcatraz" imagines that the popular boy across the street really loves her because she has sex with him almost daily, even though he won't look at her in school; and the promiscuous American exchange student in "Lass" marries the son of a famous Irish novelist, then develops a dangerous attraction with the father. In the title story, a ne'er-do-well couple work in a movie theater, and the woman fears that she has breast cancer.Malls, teenage pregnancy, casual sex, film studies: all related to the troubled equation between sex and love, which Erian explores with a rookie's talents. Competent but not yet anything special. Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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Library Journal Reviews 2001 March #1
Erian has published in hip, commendable places like Zoetrope and Nerve, but this is her first collection. It's a work one reads and likes despite oneself, because the characters can make one frown. There's Beatrice, who tries to make her grades in school by seducing her professors while rather meanly rejecting the advances of a lovelorn freshman, and newly married Shayna, who could never get through her famous father-in-law's books but falls for him anyway. Erian has a way of creating situations that make one read compulsively, like a guilty pleasure. She's good at capturing the dark and sensual underside of life without either celebrating it, or judging it, or presenting it with deadpan cynicism. She cares, and it comes across. A good choice for public libraries, especially with younger readers who deserve someone voicing their concerns. Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 February #2
Elegant, deadpan prose, engaging scenarios and a host of sexy, resilient characters distinguish Erian's superb debut collection. The nine vibrant stories are narrated by a host of inwardly sensitive but outwardly tough females, each learning to adjust to the disappointments of adult life. In "Stand Up to the Superpowers," Beatrice rejects the notion of emotional love with an admirer, concentrating instead on seducing her college professors for better grades. Divorce and makeshift home arrangements complicate the emotional lives of most of Erian's characters. In the moving "Still Life with Plaster," Patty is reared by strict yet loving grandparents and becomes physically sick after her mother's intermittent visits. In the title story, 25-year-old Penny must contend with both the discovery of a breast lump and her obstinate father's refusal to help pay for a biopsy. Brigitte, the sexually undecided protagonist of "Almonds and Cherries," submits a provocative lesbian film for a class, and her beloved teacher is chastised by the college for imposing her own orientation on her students. In "Lass," a newly married North London couple temporarily move in with in-laws, only to have a forbidden passion disrupt their new life together. The stories have a mesmerizing, addictive quality, and Erian's characters are believable and endearing. Refreshingly, there are no swift epiphanies; most of these tales end abruptly and unexpectedly, with plenty of loose ends for readers to ponder. Erian gets kudos for never making victims of her independent, resourceful women. Seductive, erotic, smart and tartly humorous, these tales are true gems. (Apr. 13) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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