Kirkus Reviews QR Code
WHEN THE MESSENGER IS HOT by Elizabeth Crane

WHEN THE MESSENGER IS HOT

Stories

By Elizabeth Crane

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2003
ISBN: 0-316-09652-0
Publisher: Little, Brown

Sixteen debut tales about the wacky lives of modern women and their relationships with wacky men.

One of Crane’s narrators, who could be all of Crane’s narrators, says, “These are the boys you think about. The very fact that you use the word boys, at your age, says a lot.” Yes, it does. The best effort here is the first, “The Archetype’s Girlfriend,” which achieves humor and insight while maintaining a steady second-person delivery straight out of Pam Houston. The story is a harsh but accurate picture of men created indirectly through picturing the kind of woman for whom men routinely destroy their lives. “You Take Naps” is another second-person account, this time of a woman’s date with a younger man and her preoccupation with that fact. The title piece is yet another second-person farce, about another date—to see West Side Story on DVD with a guy who has a New York accent. Some of Crane’s efforts are what Raymond Carver once called “funny-looking” stories: “The Super Fantastic New Zealand Triangle” is a fantasy affair conducted mostly in footnotes (without David Foster Wallace, one can assume, this would have never come to be) and is more interesting for its strategy than its story; and “The Daves” is a semi-smart pastiche of the presumably masculine numbering and lettering of scholarly writing. These are less stories, however, than monologues (the characters often use words like “quasi-feminist” and “superlame”). Of longer pieces, a standout is “An Intervention,” about a woman’s experience in AA that leads, you guessed it, to more bad dates with cardboard men, so that she needs rescue more from them than from alcohol. Crane’s is the art of writing a lot without saying much. The result, while often funny, usually adds up to no more than that.

Talented and witty, but aimed squared at the Ally McBeal set.