Spare and edgy fiction by Southern Californian Glatt (A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That, 2004) finds grim humor in soured relationships and bad choices.
Glatt has a sharp eye for catching the incongruous detail that nicely derails her characters’ tidy sense of themselves, such as the gold nose ring worn by the bullying older student in the story “Eggs,” a student who ultimately prods her professor, narrator Lilly Lyle, to push her out of her chair. Lilly exhorts the insulting student to “behave,” all the while denying her own guilt in enjoying phone sex with a married man she met at an academic convention in Arizona. In “The Study of Lightning Injury,” a husband named Mack undergoes a kind of religious conversion after being hit by lightning on a fishing trip with a friend who’d admitted, shortly before the strike, trying to make the moves on Mack’s wife. Mack won’t touch his wife after the accident/revelation, insisting that he is “rewired.” Ultimately, the story grows into a maddening attempt to sort a rational perspective. Similarly, in “Soup,” a widow learns chillingly how unrecognizable her 17-year-old son has become—running with the same group of bullies he was once tormented by. The first story, “Dirty Hannah Gets Hit by a Car,” sets the creepy atmosphere of Southern California, a land “without sidewalks, with lawns and flowerbeds that go right down to the curb,” a seemingly innocuous detail except that Hannah, a schoolgirl whose parents fight ferociously, has to walk to school alone at her own peril. In well-developed tales like “Animals” (the zoologist narrator contends with saving his zoo animals in a heat wave while balancing trust for his untrustworthy wife) and “Ludlow” (a couple of young newlyweds full of self-doubt and good intentions visit the in-laws before the wife’s pregnancy starts showing), Glatt clearly harbors tenderness for the underdog.
Polished, taut writing we want more of.