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Fiction Review    

Trouble With Girls
By Marshall Boswell
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2003
Hardcover, $22.95 (306 pages)
ISBN: 1-56512-344-1 



Marshall Boswell teaches American literature at Rhodes College, and has published many short stories and some nonfiction professional (literary) works/studies.  Trouble With Girls is his collection of short stories that has a common thread that runs through them all.  That thread is the main character: Parker Hayes. 

Parker Hayes, is a humdrum, middle-class sort of guy who falls in and out of love (or lust) as fast as he buttons his shirt.  What young man didn’t when he was growing up?  He loves music, and plays at being popular, vying in his most intense moments in attaining complete hipness.  His efforts culminate in wearing gaudy teenage garments and going around with bizarre and colorful characters that attract attention from all quarters at school. 

From early teens to manhood, we follow Parker as he fails to manage any sort of successful relationship with girls and then women.  He seeks to endear himself to one girl, even when warned by his friend, Caleb: 

          “Forget about Nicole,” he assured me out in the ocean later that same afternoon.  “I already got the scoop from Shelley, who goes to her school.  Basically, Nicole only dates older guys, seniors and shit, so she’s a lost cause.  Sorry, man.  You’ll get nowhere.  Trust me…” 

Even so, he worships and watches her from afar, hoping against hope for any sign that she has noticed him.  She doesn’t.  Another humiliating incident follows in a later story, when a girl that Parker invites home with him for some innocuous (and one-night) sex, relates this line and  summarily “holds out” having sex with him: 

“You know,” she whispers into my ear, “everybody gets slammed one time or another.” 

This, she tells Parker even as she slams him, knowing that he doesn’t care for her at all, but is harboring a ‘crush’ for another girl she knows, making Parker feel like a “complete asshole.” 

I tell you, there’s a lot in this book: the music, the atmosphere, the give-and-take between the adolescents, and finally between adult sexual combatants and accomplices, makes taking in Trouble With Girls well worth the read.  One thing, though—you may be put off by some of the ten-cent polysyllabic words.  If so, keep your thesaurus near…it might come in handy. 

I’ll give the author his due here: he put in a lot of time and energy in making a smoothly-progressive series of stories that interlock tightly.  I could almost hear in the background the old 45’s going again—Bob Dylan and the Stones going around and around in my head as I took in his words.


Robert L. Hall
Southern Scribe Reviews

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