Gregory Kirschling
May 07, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Sweet Land Stories

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
E.L. Doctorow
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A-

A slim collection of four-fifths perfection. In the improbably beautiful ”Jolene: A Life,” the masterful 73-year-old author of Ragtime manages to obliterate white-trash cliches with the affecting tale of an orphaned, strawberry-haired teen who bounces from tattoo parlors to stripping poles and divorce court. An award-winning highlight, it stands only a bit above three other mini-masterworks concerning a fumbled kidnapping, a religious cult, and a frontier mother and son. Gracefully mordant and frequently heart-churning, these stories are worth the steep price of a book that’s a mere 147 pages. The only miss is the final ”Child, Dead, in the Rose Garden,” a pseudo-topical political conspiracy yarn as clunky as its title.

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