A debut collection of fifteen tales that may spring from three distinct stages in the life of novelist Irsfeld (Rats Alley, not reviewed, etc.).
We begin in a section called “Dreamland” and the title story, where it turns out that Elvis is actually still alive, getting by via impersonations of himself, and we follow along as he attends an Elvis Impersonator convention in Chicago, learning something about the lingering permanence of fame along the way. Subsequent sets of tales are called “Vegas,” perhaps reflecting the author’s tenure as chair of the English department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and “The Army,” stemming from the author’s stint as a grunt. The stories themselves are often half-starts that end before they begin: “Interview With Jordan Baker,” a play on the famous golfer from The Great Gatsby, fails to become anything more than an academic exercise, with no real emotions being aroused. “The Marriage Auditors” aspires to absurdity—a team of investigators arrives after a couple’s fight to determine whether their marriage should be summarily dissolved—but it’s actually not much more than a little weird. “Have You Knocked on Cleopatra?” is a vignette that’s simply the tough-guy voice of a semi-bodyguard driving a cowboy to Vegas, and other aimless vignettes (“The Tourist,” “Stop, Rewind and Play”) describe the insipid internal ramblings, first of a gambler wandering the Strip, then of a prostitute on her day off trying to get lucky herself. J.C. Saltar contends with Army planes landing on his house but finds $250,000 in highjackers’ loot in “Finderskeepers.” Then there’s “The Man Who Watched Airplanes,” a tiresome piece about a man who—well—watches airplanes. The premise is captured in a headline that appears in “The Tourist:” “Las Vegas Attracts Weirdos.” But are these stories dull and directionless, or are we just guilty of an unhealthy tendency to expect engaging plot and interesting language?
Random and fitful.