Suzanne Ruta
April 12, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Asking for Love

Current Status
In Season
Roxana Robinson
Random House
Short Stories, Fiction

We gave it an A-

Are the rich different from you and me? Asking for Love‘s fine stories about old-moneyed Eastern-seaboard WASPs deny it. Trust funds, Park Avenue apartments, and summer houses in Maine are not protection against heartbreak. Old money shuns display, and so does Roxana Robinson. Her method is quiet, understated, almost parsimonious. She’s loyal, for the most part, to one well-chosen pattern: monitoring the controlled progress of despair — the loss of love, mostly — in her well-heeled narrators. Her best entries turn on comic characters and acute social observation. In ”The Favor” an elderly Greenwich, Conn., matron in a turban, full of gossip about men called Wiggy and Ticky, upsets a man’s smug view of his late father. In ”White Boys in Their Teens” a college boy cowering on the floor of his black friend’s car in 1950s Florida discovers racism and the isolation of privilege. We see many glimmers of Robinson’s talents — of irony, social insight, and lively description — but this polite collection barely taps them.

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