American Zombie Beauty
by Philip Baruth
paperback, 124 pages
Philip Baruth's short story collection exhibits many of the strengths that have characterized his work over twenty years in the novel form. In humorous ways, Baruth’s stories explore familiar aspects of our infectious media culture. The smaller scale of these stories brings into higher relief the psychological dynamics that drive his characters. His protagonists are ordinary people caught in dangerous predicaments partly of their own making who are also carried along by the powerful current of broader cultural forces. By wishful and evidentiary means, they revisit the past, hoping to correct or erase the most fateful elements. In Baruth’s novel The X President (Bantam 2003), about the aftermath of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the device of time-travel magically enables the reshaping of history, and the mission of the main characters remains largely external to their own lives. The characters in the present stories are more deeply implicated in the errors of the past: they may carry the most hazardous materials inside them. In the title story, the hazard is a virus that works like a time bomb, delivering horror from an idyllic source. In “Anthony Buys Pornography,” it is a lingering token of unseemly desire; and in “Peaheart” and “Nancy & Tanya & the Long Hard Rain,” it’s a personal secret—a weakness at the core of the character. These stories confront the consequences of human weakness while still allowing the characters their full humanity and a chance at redemption.
About the Author
Philip Baruth is the author of four novels, The Brothers Boswell (Soho Press 2009); The X President (Bantam 2003), a time-travel adventure focused on the Clinton administration; The Dream of the White Village (RNM Inc. 1998); and the cult classic Grateful Dead novel The Millennium Shows (Albion Books 1994) (Republished by Kearney Street Books in 2012). He is professor of English at the University of Vermont, where he teaches creative writing, postmodern American literature and culture, eighteenth-century British literature, and the literature of Vermont. Baruth has served in the Vermont Senate since 2010.