Second story collection from a keen stylist (The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, 1998) intent on rewriting the grim fable of modern life.
Fifteen pieces explore the startling and often sadistic relationships among people who love each other, all with a stylistic whiff of Lydia Davis or Rick Moody. “Death Watch,” while first, gives an off-putting indication of the author’s chilly reserve by presenting the premise that “Ten men go to ten doctors” and then filling in the blanks. More typical of this sleek collection is “Off,” about a young woman at a party whose goal is to kiss three men, each with a different color hair. Wearing her slinky silver dress that makes the hostess run for more lipstick and jewelry, the narrator doesn’t bank on the presence of a recent boyfriend at the party, Adam, who recognizes her nutty play for attention and calls her on it. A troubling sadistic streak reveals itself cleanly in “End of the Line,” about a man who goes to the pet store and ends up buying a little man in a cage. The little man has been captured, like a slave, and taken away from his family, and, bit by bit, the large tyrant tortures his pet out of his terrible inability to feel human sympathy. Another sadistic character is the eponymous “Motherfucker” who beds women “of every size and shape in different cities.” He gradually seduces a famous actress in L.A., using her vulnerability to his advantage, then never calls her again, so that in her next movies she grows “luminous in her seriousness” and is finally memorable. Several of the stories deal with the cruelty of the girl adolescent. In “Jinx,” for example, two high-schoolers betray each other over a cute boy, and the narrator in “Debbieland,” once a member of a clique that beat up the vulnerable girl Debbie, lives to rue her action.
A handful of real moments, presented with bite and wit.