Margot Mifflin
October 04, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Shape-shifter

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Pauline Melville
publisher
Pantheon
genre
Short Stories, Fiction

We gave it an A

Shape-Shifter, an exquisite first collection of stories by a Guyanese actress who lives in London, an English girl with a terror of infinity collapses into a black hole that appears in her knee, a cabaret performer invents a sinister persona that comes to life and assaults her, and a Guyanese plays on the superstitions of his country’s vice president to land a new job. Pauline Melville writes like Jamaica Kincaid on acid; her characters navigate the psychological zones between native and foreign lands, and Melville’s imagination invents a world where the back door of a London flat magically opens onto a backyard in Jamaica and a woman’s talking vagina insults her husband. These are streetwise folktales ribboned with magic realism and peopled by iron-willed women. A

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