cover image Weird Women, Wired Women

Weird Women, Wired Women

Kit Reed. Wesleyan University Press, $40 (234pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-2254-2

Reed has been writing what she calls ""speculative"" stories for 40 years, and this is a collection of 19 short narratives that specifically focus on the problems of women during those four decades--particularly on the fraught relationships between mothers and daughters. These range from the early ""The Wait"" (1958), in which a mother who has always been protective but conventional yields to a horrifying new convention that will sacrifice her daughter, to last year's ""Whoever,"" in which a terminally trendy teenager tries to choose between the parent who adopted her (as a sperm-bank baby) and two other women who may be the ""real"" mother she craves. These stories hover on the brink of science fiction and have a strong element of fantasy. They embrace, with fearful lucidity, contemporary trends like the passion for the perfect house (""Cynosure,"" 1964); the all-enveloping beauty contest (""In Behalf of the Product,"" 1973); the fiercer side of feminist combativeness (""Songs of War,"" 1974); and the obsession with fashion (""Like My Dress,"" 1993). There is no doubt about the prescience of Reed's earlier stories, or about the despairing sense of the consumerist media culture that infuses the later ones. Her writing is always crisp and to the point. There is, however, a kind of unrelenting obsessiveness not unlike that of Reed's characters. The lack of contrast to offset the prevailing darkness becomes unnerving, and the total effect, while impressive, is somewhat cold. (Mar.)