A debut collection of 22 silly and predictable stories. Only one comes even close to the level of the least of Harris’s five novels (Holy Fools, 2004, etc.).
Introduced by irritatingly chatty author’s notes (“I got the idea for this story on a Saturday morning”), the pieces are mostly monologues by trendy folk, too often depending upon sophomoric satire rather than plot, character, theme, or language. In “Fish,” the snobbish bride at dinner on a Naples honeymoon is on a vegetarian, lactose-intolerant, wheat-free diet; the groom ends up seduced by the culinary orgy offered by the proprietress. “Hello, Goodbye” is narrated by Angela K, a columnist for Goodbye! magazine covering a celebrity funeral that ends up coming too close to home when her own bumpkin parents show up to give eulogies. It turns out the deceased is her sister, a fashion model dead from an eating disorder, a bit of information neglected until the trick ending. “Al and Christine’s World of Leather” puts Christine and Al, who met at a Weight Watchers meeting, in business, she sewing various leather garments, he selling them. Meanwhile, Christine’s husband Jack begins spending three hours a night with his and Christine’s best friend, making use of the mysterious leatherwear (“Poor stupid Christine, thinks it’s dancewear, wouldn’t know a dildo if she saw one”). Christine gets her expected revenge. Only “Waiting for Gandalf” moves beyond surface, reaching a level of empathy lacking in the rest. For 30 years, a geography teacher known to his students as “Sad Smith” has been a regular in a Saturday night woodland adventure with a group of live-action role-players. He’s usually a monster, but sometimes the referee for the others. One week, when he has rounded up a group of university students as “sword fodder,” things go horribly wrong, and Old Smithy loses control.
Sadly, missing the usual sensual delights of Harris’s work.