A debut story collection about Los Angeles’s various hopeless classes.
An alcoholic is haunted by the wife who killed herself and their daughter in “Love Lifted Me.” A failed actor moves back to his mother’s house in “The Hero Shot.” Insanity overwhelms a stalker in “Everything Beautiful is Far Away.” And, in the title story, a moderately successful and deeply numb office dweller jerks back to life. Like the rest of Lange’s protagonists, these men are misfits, screw-ups and sociopaths, and these stories capture them at the moment when their brittle, circumscribed lives finally shatter. The one exception is “Bank of America,” which depicts a sublimely average family man looking forward to relaxing after he completes his final heist. This superbly crafted tale was chosen for The Best American Mystery Stories 2004, and, in its current company, it presents the reader with a pleasing irony: The gun-toting bank robber is the most gentle, least violent character in the collection. That Lange is equally adept at creating lowlifes, nice guys and all the men who fall somewhere in between says a great deal about his abilities and his style. He provides his vividly real characters with a space in which they can finally release all the emotions—the rage, the longing, the bewilderment—that they work so hard to suppress, and he compels his creations to a level of honesty they’ve evaded with drugs, alcohol and paranoid delusions. Even when this release is self-destructive, it’s also a kind of grace. The men who people this collection may engage in macho posturing, but their author never does.
Superlative short fiction, and an arresting debut.