EVIDENCE OF THE OUTER
Paradigm Publishing, 1992
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood
Lesbian Short Stories
The cover of EVIDENCE OF THE OUTER WORLD describes this collection of short stories as "feminist and woman centered." I will add, so no one is taken unawares, it is discontented with femininity and the condition of womanhood. Author Janet Bohac roots her series of twenty-three bite-sized stories in a sense of solidarity among women, then isolates her main characters in a stratosphere of disconnected alienation.
The most frequent character and connecting thread of EVIDENCE OF THE OUTER WORLD is Dory, whom we meet first as a young girl. Doryís mother is a beautiful and successful actress and Dory adores her. The author gives Dory a special, even telepathic understanding of her mother, which creates the sense of solidarity she feels against her father. The thrust of the first three stories is that men can dish out all the crap they want and women are helpless against it. My Mother is a well written, well constructed story which, in spite of the doubtful message, carries the momentum to hurtle the reader into the next few stories.
The next ten stories involve unfulfilling heterosexual relationships. In the world of Janet Bohac, men donít bond with women for understanding, passion, shared interests, and teamwork, they do it for underhanded and usually odd reasons that have nothing to do with the woman. In one of the most understandable, Doryís married "lover" tells her why he visits her: "Itís a relief. Iím needed everywhere else in my life." When finally one of Bohacís characters is allowed real love, it is a short-lived "mismatch made in heaven."
The last story grouping is about various types of bonding, primarily between women. Two teenage girls form an unshakable tie when one is raped. A husband tolerates a lesbian lover. Dory, entangled with three women, tries to discover if her admired aunt is lesbian. The author then makes unsuccessful forays into the thought processes of other ethnic groups and two states of insanity. At last, in what is meant to be a culmination, Dory attempts to connect with herself, her father, and the rest of her large and noisy family. We have never even seen this family before, so the attempt only emphasizes Doryís isolation, making the culmination fall rather flat.
Bohac does write well, smoothly and colorfully. She has a talent for the zinger ending, suddenly bringing the point of her short story into sharp focus at the end. The catch is that the zing will be hollow for the reader who doesnít share the authorís attitudes. Also, the points being made contradict each other as the book goes along. The only way this collection would make sense to me was if the stories were written over a period of decades, causing us to watch as experience changes the authorís ideas. EVIDENCE OF THE OUTER WORLD is very much a limited-appeal publication, but it has literary merit.
Mar 2003 Review Originally Published on the Independent Reviews Site
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