February 03, 1986 12:00 PM

by Ian Frazier

If 50 years from now someone wants to know what real life was like in the 1980s, he should get hold of this short story collection. Certainly real life isn’t on television or in the movies, and newspaper stories are so concerned with facts that too often the essence is missing. It is the essence of society as we know it that concerns Frazier. That he is hilarious is just a bonus. The title story gets to the real heart of man’s trouble in finding a mate—no woman is ever going to have the qualities and provide that certain kind of love that a mother gives. In “Apartment 6-A: After the Fall,” a man describes what happened to his place in Greenwich Village after the North Vietnamese took it over. “My cat, Bill, who likes to watch pigeons, seems perfectly happy with his new name, Ho Chi Minh Domestic Animal.” Many of the stories are filed with literary references. “Niven: A Reconsideration” treats the books written by the movie star as if they were of great merit—to be compared only with the works of such profound contemporary writers as Shirley MacLaine, Sammy Davis Jr. and Desi Arnaz. “What the Dog Did” is a short, shaggy paragraph followed by a much longer note about the author: “Ian Frazier is a writer who soaks up experience like a sponge…. Any experience that happens, it doesn’t just have to be a good experience, and—BAM—Ian Frazier will convert it into writing of some kind.” Frazier, a New Yorker staff writer, does more than just soak it up. He then sweats it out in perfectly groomed comic prose. (Farrar Straus Giroux, $11.95)

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