Eleven stories in a third collection from Bukiet (While the Messiah Tarries, 1995, etc.) focus on the complicated lives of the renowned and disingenuous.
In the opener, “Squeak, Memory,” a writer stalks Nabokov in New York during the Watergate season. A Humbert Humbert’s Quilty-figure to Vladimir, the unnamed narrator delights in extracting hidden meanings from every mundane gesture of the great writer and lepidopterist. In “Splinter,” a seriously funny rumination on collectible relics, a science-fiction hack turned media-mogul bids for the centerpiece completing his reconstruction of the True Cross, only to be upstaged by a mysterious woman in green. “The Return of Eros to Academe” will provoke the ire of campaigners who thought Mamet’s Oleanna tackled the seductive student/teacher relationship genre unrealistically. “Paper Hero” trails a literary wannabe (Bukiet’s doppelgänger) who’s convinced that in order to publish his book and usurp Rushdie on the Islamic most wanted list, he needs to be shot. “The Suburbiad” is a mythopeic bore. But, fortunately, “The Swap” picks up the slack with a Borgesian tale of a Nobel laureate and his Faustian deal with a cab driver. Next comes “Filophilia,” as a homicidal mother’s soliloquy before a judge shows the extent to which a mother can love her son. “But, Microsoft! What Byte Through Yonder Windows Breaks?” is, well, slightly overcooked. “Tongue of the Jews” toys with a delicate matter. Gentile Ned, obsessed with Judaism and the Holocaust, confronts his idol, Keeper, a writer and survivor who has been sleeping with Ned’s wife and publishing the details. Keeper decides to help Ned convert, symbolically, using a sharp letter opener. In “The Two Franzes,” a young Kafka roams the streets of Prague delivering absurd correspondences between a playwright and an aristocrat, while “The War Lovers” chronicles a perverse homicide/genocide photographer whose end comes at the hands and teeth of mechanical bunnies.
Intelligent and amusing: a tour de force for the literate tabloid enthusiast.