by Margaret Webb
TAKE DOUGLAS Coupland, put him in a fiction workshopwith David Adams Richards, and what you might get is a Michael Winter. That isto say the Newfoundland-based author of the 16 stories in Creaking in Their Skins (Quarry, 240 pages, $16.95 paper) is of the school of Richardsin terms of style, subject, and setting - which is pared-downprose, the unor under-employed working class, and the East Coast -but his stories also seethe with a generational angst that lends a new twist toregional storytelling. Not only are Winter`s characters stuck in their tinycorner of the world, but they are often squeezed four couples to a house due tothe space the previously stuck generation has already sequestered.
In "Enlarged to Show Texture," Richardponders who deposited a clot of grey sperm and pubic hair in the drain. Fromthis rank detail springs an intimate entree into an overcrowded house: Yutianfantasizing about entering his girlfriend from behind, couples worrying aboutoverheard conversations and lovemaking, one couple prepping for oral sex:"Pain wipes the bead jism from the mouth of his cock before sucking.Richard strokes away the white curd that builds up on her clitoris."
The narrator suggests that such magnified detail ispotent only at a distance but looks "contrived and artificial" upclose. Yet it is when Winter attempts to distance the reader with fragmentedform and sentences that the contrivance of story frustrates. He is at his mostpowerful when he snags his reader on the rhythm of a narrator`s voice or anunusual moment and lets the story unravel. The result: some wonderful moments,as in "Flayed Man with Own Skin" when two heterosexual, working-classmen, on finding themselves sharing a bed, reach out and hold hands. As thenarrator says, "that one touch, that deliberate thing made it all comfortable."And made this collection special.