Prose as jam-packed as early Pynchon nicely litters a novella and five stories following Griffith’s promising first novel (Spikes, 2001).
Range and research are on display here. The title novella follows Myrtle, once a hottie but now a governess-type, and Seti, an awkward Egyptian national, through their adventures working in a university library overrun by rutting students finding love and adventure within the stacks. This is only semifuturistic allegory, to be sure, as “So much of education consists in learning how foolish people used to be, when they lived in chaos and error.” But what will happen when Seti tells Myrtle her “coals remain hot”? Will the two discover the true root of rock ’n’ roll? After all, isn’t the history of literature a library of double entendre and intercourse? Or should this odd couple give up on even the inferior form of love they’re capable of and settle for coarse pun? The rest of the stories are just as well-planned and zany: in “Zugzwang” (a chess term), an ex-professional wrestler-father and a boardgame-prodigy son find themselves growing apart when the latter employs the former in a living chess display that turns into farcical spectacle. A man whose science is hair finds himself contemplating desperate acts (“The Trichologist’s Rug”) as his wife manages to remain miraculously young. And “Junior’s—We Cap Hubs” is a portrait of a night-watchman in a New Jersey where the “Whores [have] complexions like Spam, legs like overstuffed duffels. Newark’s pastries had fillings the color and consistency of spunk . . . . ” The situations touched on here are every bit as broad as the geography they span. If Griffith is guilty of anything, it’s overindulgence in research and a habit of including everything. But beneath all the banter are real lives and people, forging identities in a modernity that’s trying to outpace them.
A vast catalog of history, sadness, and love.