Twenty-six men write of relationships gone sour.
To balance her previous all-female-authored collection, The Dictionary of Failed Relationships (2003), Broussard brings us the Y-chromosome version, a chance for men to defend themselves against the presumption that they’re the sole selfish, lying, cheating gender. The A-to-Z volume surprises by not casting man as martyr. Quite a few are told from a woman’s point of view—like Jack Murnighan’s deeply felt “Over,” a widow’s tale of her affair with a much younger man, and “Devotion,” Adam Langer’s sliver of a story about a groupie’s near-hook-up with Bruce Springsteen. Family strife also looms, as in Matthew Sharpe’s “Car,” about a father learning to let his daughter grow up, and Jeff Johnson’s “Egging,” which involves a stepfather-figure who encourages a teenager to commit vandalism, then abandons him when the scene turns ugly. Readers looking for the pain of romance gone awry will find satisfaction in Marc Spitz’s “Xanax,” a recovered heroin addict’s recollection of the torture he wrought on a woman who dared to love him, and Justin Haythe’s “Youth,” a foreboding account of two men’s forays into infidelity. A couple of comic tales stand out: “Last,” Richard Rushfield’s laugh-out-loud story of being the final man on earth unable to woo the sole remaining woman (“ ‘You seriously think I’m going to put out on the second day I’ve known you?’ ” she asks, adding, “ ‘Why don’t we take our time and see where it leads?’ ”), and Dan Kennedy’s “Z,” in which the bumbling narrator falls for—and supposes he has an amorous relationship with—a blithely calculating lesbian. Other contributors include Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Ames, Neal Pollack, and the music writer Touré, who offers up a weightless, unamusing parable about a breakup.
An imaginative, yet uneven, collection, with flat tales sprinkled among those with sensitivity, humor and flair.