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FICTION : ON THE GULF by Elizabeth Spencer (University Press of Mississippi: $25; 145 pp.)

The author’s introduction to these six short stories is itself a finely crafted essay that evokes the Mississippi Gulf Coast as it used to be. Hurricane Camille devastated the coastline in 1969, she recalls, and even worse, since that time the past has been buried under tacky layers of condominiums and shopping centers. These stories, beautifully illustrated with drawings and prints by Walter Anderson, capture the warm, muggy softness of the coastal atmosphere, where, in an open convertible, the wind rushes past “like an endless bolt of raw silk.” In “The Fugitive’s Wife,” there is a whisper of deception; the story is about a young woman who is obviously talented, but troubled, and possibly interested only in reconnecting with her distant lover.


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