A collection of short stories and essays that lean heavily toward the postmodern.
Marcopolos (Almost Home, 2013, etc.) here offers 10 short stories, followed by two essays on the nature and history of the subgenre of postmodern literary fiction. Readers leery of postmodernism may want to read these essays first, in order to get the author’s perspective on the type of fiction he considers his stories to be. In general, readers approaching postmodern stories can expect less formal structure and more rhetorical game-playing than what they might get in the works of writers such as John Updike or John Cheever. Certainly, Marcopolos delivers on both those counts, as his stories are filled with narrative playfulness and, sometimes, conceptual strangeness. They offer a fairly wide variety of plots, although a common strand of personality investigation runs through most of them: “What drives you?” one character asks in the first story, “Tock,” and variations of that question appear in most of the following tales. As in any such collection, some entries are stronger than others. One standout is “Valhalla House,” in which Enzo, a college baseball player, is weakened by a recent elbow surgery; he can “feel the impact of losing everything,” including the loyalty of “all the people who loved him fifty pounds and a 95-mile-an-hour fastball ago.” Here, Marcopolos really captures the brutal realities of chancing everything on the possibility of a pro career. “Eroticoffica” is another strong entry, in which two young women take a break from their job writing pornographic e-books (“each cranking out many titles of hot-selling erotica each year”) in order to swap complaints and dreams; they go to an eccentric coffee shop, where their laughter inadvertently prompts another patron to go home and shoot himself. Despite the author’s essays on postmodernism, the best stories in this collection are the most traditional ones. There’s plenty here that Updike and Cheever fans will like, even if they’ve never given postmodernism a second glance.
An uneven but frequently effective collection of stories about people seeking to understand themselves and their predicaments.