by Daniel Jones
IN HER FIRST collection of stories, Stalking the Gilded Boneyard (Gutter Press/Steel Rail Publishing, 145 pages, $12.95 paper), Christine Slater plays a dangerous game and loses. She takes characters from popular culture and attempts to give meaning to their superficial lives. At their best, these stories are affected and irritating; more often, they are tedious. Four stories focus on Anita Asher, a New York artist best known for her work with Rainer Hofgren, a famous rock musician, and for her dependence on drugs. In each story Anita is depicted from a different perspective; as a character she remains static and obvious. Interviewed for Rolling Stone, Anita comments on her fame:
Oh man,... it can freak you out. At first it`s exciting in a way; how could it not be? But then, if it continues, you look at it like there are people out there who know a lot about you and you don`t even know they`re alive and that`s just weird.
Unfortunately, the writing never elevates itself above its subject matter. Slater`s prose is splashy and haphazard. It lacks the hip ingenuousness of Tama Janowitz or the sophistication of Jay McInerney.
It is not until the final story that Slater reveals her abilities as a writer. Perry Coltrane, a leftover from the counterculture of the early `70s, lives at the Chelsea Hotel with his daughter and with memories of friends lost in a murder-suicide. The sense of waste and meaninglessness in Perry`s life engaged my empathy in a way that the other stories could not.