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Love (Fucked Up) Actually 

Thursday, May 20 2004

Blind Love, Mary Woronov’s first short-story collection, moves at the varied pace of a bandit slide show. The ex–Warhol superstar and author of two previous novels begins with some far-out adventures: from a drifter’s initiation into the white-trash world of South Florida carny life, to a woman’s travels into the indeterminate depths of the Amazon jungle, to an obsessed lover’s near threesome with an old boyfriend and a virgin 17-year-old at a local Motel 6. Told firsthand by mostly unnamed narrators, the stories are roguish forays into the world of their tellers’ twisted experience. About halfway in, though, Woronov abandons the steady and engaging voice she’s cultivated and proceeds to whip through the rest of the pictures on her “reel.” She departs from the lush corridors of imagination and leads us back to a more familiar vision of jaded Los Angeles where “one didn’t get upset anymore, one just got even.” These portraits of quasi-depraved, middle-aged men and women soullessly torturing one another in the midst of Hollywood excess have a hallucinatory quality that gives them a kind of First Wives Club–on–acid touch. Interspersed are darkly toned, sometimes poetic, two-page vignettes that make one appreciate the use of ellipses by writers like Diane Williams or Lydia Davis because, well, it’s hard to do.

What binds these stories is their exploration of fucked-up love and sex. Woronov’s characters are an assortment of flophouse show-biz veterans, lady freewheelers, drugged-out housewives and eager young girls, who all find themselves in less than conventionally romantic circumstances. But their oddity is charming, turning otherwise tragic events toward comedy. In “Jack, Part One,” a woman’s obsession with an unattainable married man echoes in the nagging voices she hears coming from grocery produce in the back seat of her car. “Get it through your head you’re nothing but a goddamn little ball of green shit and I’m not carrying you to happy refrigerator land,” she scolds the lettuce. “The Alligator Man,” set in a carnival, deals with issues of domestic alienation as the narrator, Destiny, shacks up with sideshow freak “Alec Gaiter” during her stint as “Electric Girl.” When Alec tries to leave her, she shoots him: “Because if you’re going to leave me, I don’t want you to come back.”

This kind of lover’s logic is diffused throughout the book. And when it hits the right pitch, much like a B-movie vixen’s great last line, the collection stands as Woronov’s frenzied call for retribution.

BLIND LOVE | By MARY WORONOV | Serpent’s Tail | 148 pages | $14, paperback

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