By Ben Spier
August 25, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Had A Good Time

B+
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  • Book

Vintage postcards adorned with rustic landscapes, spooning young lovers, and wish-you-were-here greetings are the jumping-off point for this uneven but affecting series of vignettes of early-20th-century America in Had A Good Time. Sometimes the tone is wryly comic, as in ”The Ironworkers’ Hayride,” where a shy accountant and a woman with a wooden leg express romantic longing in a discussion of female suffrage and Halley’s comet. Occasionally, Robert Olen Butler strains for contemporary relevance: In ”The One in White,” a brief flirtation between a Mexican laundress and an American reporter during a U.S. military incursion comes off as a too-obvious allegory of not-so-innocents abroad. Yet in the standout ”Carl and I,”a librarian reaches out to her consumptive, dying husband with clear-eyed, aching poignancy.

Had A Good Time

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