Unhappy relationships in various stages of disintegration.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say the characters in Braverman’s (Frantic Transmissions to and from Los Angeles, 2006, etc.) stories all hate each others' guts. In the first story, the 13-old-daughter of former band mates has to choose whether to live with her drug dealer father in Pennsylvania or her snobby, faux recovering alcoholic mother in California; unsurprisingly, the only place she really feels at home is O’Hare airport. In the second, a woman who's denied tenure calls her mother, but not for consolation. Hell, no. Her mother is “an integral component in her arsenal of weapons of personal destruction…her plutonium centerpiece.” Another protagonist thinks of a visit to her childhood home as the mission of “a journalist sent to cover a catastrophe.” “Are you saying you missed me?” she asks her mother. “I don’t even remember you,” says her mother. “What’s there to miss?” In “Cocktail Hour,” an exec named Bernie comes home from work to find his wife packing to leave him. Their whole 24-year marriage was nothing more to her than an elaborate performance art piece, she explains. The reader soon concludes he shouldn't take it personally: she hates their children and everyone else they know, too. Perhaps the grand prize for extreme enmity goes to the lifelong "almost cousins" of “Women of the Ports.” When the story begins, the two women are meeting up at Fisherman’s Wharf. They only get together once in a while because “conventional friendship, with its narrative of consensual commitments have proved too intimate and demanding.” For the next 22 pages, things go downhill rather dramatically. The story ends like this: “She hopes Clarissa loses her license and becomes destitute. She should have her hands amputated like any other thief. Then she should get a slow growing undetectable ovarian cancer that metastasizes in her stomach and brain. The Russian Mafia should gang rape her while the Iranians eat caviar and watch. In any event, she never wants to see Clarissa again.” Yeah, she probably shouldn’t.
It’s always a good day for seppuku in this subzero emotional climate.