Tester, William

Darling: A Novel by William Tester
Darling (1991)
From Library Journal
Sibling rivalry is often reconciled by time and distance, but brothers Jeab and Bubba tackle the problem head on, in a method born of their rural roots and Southern heritage, and pursue it to its logical conclusion. Faced off across a kitchen table sporting a loaded pistol and growing numbers of empty beer cans, they revisit long-held grievances and mind-embellished hurts, always confirming the relationship of elder to younger brother. They work through the issues of parental love and competition for the favors of cousin Kay. But they bristle with emotion over memories of "Darling," a beautiful Holstein that each has singled out from the dairy herd to receive the best and worst of their sexual longings. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, Darling is a fine first novel filled with sensual imagery and emotional turmoil from a first-rate young Southern writer. Readers will definitely want more.
- Thomas L. Kil patrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Head: Stories by William Tester
Head (2000)
From Publishers Weekly
In "Wet," this anxiety-prone collection's fine lead story, two teenage brothers struggle against nature and their overbearing stepfather in an odd, real estate-grabbing task: stretching barbed wire across a portion of Florida lake as a lightning storm sets in. Inauspicious as this scenario may seem for exploring troubled family dynamics or the acid reflux of fear, Tester (Darling) escalates the narrator's hungover awkwardness, his older brother Jim's competitiveness and their stepfather Lloyd's bullying to a fever pitch as their pointless labor becomes a struggle for power and survival. Some of the better stories here recount earlier incidents in this Florida cracker family album. "Cousins" features narrator Nim and Jim's adolescent competition for a pretty cousin, and the quietly sad "Floridita" evokes a unique mood and tone as the children listen to their father's tape-recorded letters from Vietnam, even as they know their mother is leaving him for Lloyd. Elsewhere, Tester's successful experiments in everyday dread include the linked stories of a night on the town for aimless New York singles ("Where the Dark Ended") and an existentially difficult stint at the office ("Bad Day"). Sometimes, though, stories like "The Living and the Dead," featuring a college dropout's hitchhiking and hustling tour of Italy, have the air of retrograde minimalism, with the hallmark of an affectless and slightly inarticulate mind game. Yet, overall, this work from Head, who won the 1999 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, shows a strong new talent on the rise. The book's bizarre cover, depicting a man with a hat made from a plastic jug, may please or repel browsers in equal measure, but it will get their attention. Agent, Georges Borchardt Literary Agency. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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