Twelve stories take up a variety of absurdist premises to investigate the meaning of life.
“Nobody thought the apocalypse would be so polite and quirky,” according to the final story in this collection, which imagines the end as a series of disappearances—first the house keys, then the cat, then one’s boyfriend, a lake, one’s memories. This sort of whimsical philosophical inquiry is a common thread in Kleeman’s (You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, 2015) second book. With a literary genealogy that includes great-uncles like DeLillo and Pynchon and cousins like Rivka Galchen and Ben Marcus and can be traced back to/blamed on Samuel Beckett, many of the stories take up matters like “what if lobsters sought revenge?” “what if you forgot who you were?” and “what if the fake blood at a costume party were real?” using a narrator who sometimes seems like a normal person and sometimes like a disembodied poetic intelligence. In the latter form, we get passages like “The snow is what sand would be if it could forget its material, if it could forget its hardness, roughness, if it could forget its own weight. And the snow is what we would be if we could forget ours. If we could become the things we pretend instead of merely pretending at them, playing over and over at a game of falling silent and soft from couch to floor, making ourselves silent and soft as we can, playing at being snow, playing until our elbows and sides are too sore to move.” If that—from a 43-page story called “A Brief History of Weather”—goes over your head, there's a group of realist stories embedded in the middle of the collection with a central character named Karen. One of these, “Choking Victim,” recently appeared in the New Yorker. Its take on early motherhood combines more conventional character development and plot tension with the “intimations of mortality” that provide a focus for this rather inconsistent collection.
For fans of the avant-garde.