Twenty-two often witty, sometimes-disquieting short stories from chameleon stylist Crane (The History of Great Things, 2016, etc.).
Crane tends to rely on droll gimmicks in her short fiction, but when she does stick the landing, it’s often an elegant, unexpected solution. There’s a lot of obsession with stuff here—in “Roosters” (a stream-of-consciousness hunt-and-peck through a grocery store), “Here Everything’s Better” (more shopping), “We Collect Things” (a sly indictment of hoarder culture), and “Looking” (a catalog of the things the narrator likes). Elsewhere, Crane skewers the hubris of intellect in “The Genius Meetings,” tabloid culture in “Star Babies,” and the weighty self-importance of literary fiction in “Notes for an Important American Story.” It’s not to say that Crane can’t be quite poignant, even in the short form. Two fragments about friendship, “Best Friends Seriously Forever” and “Old Friends,” flip from silly to heartbreaking and back on a dime. But then the collection slides straight into insubstantial dalliances like “Justin Bieber’s Hair in a Box” and “Stella’s Thing,” which can’t even be bothered to belabor its own point: "Anyway, this wasn’t that long ago. So we don’t really know how it’s going to turn out. Probably, this won’t be the rest of her life. Does it have to be?” Other devices are more successful, like the musings on the fluid nature of time in “Where Time Goes” and the existential catalog of fears in “Some Concerns.” When the stories stretch out, it makes a difference, most notably in the kinky Hollywood melodrama “Mr. and Mrs. P Are Married” and the stellar “Today in Post-Apocalyptic Problems.” Despite the author’s dependence on literary sleight of hand, sometimes the truth sneaks out, as it does in the opening story, “Everywhere, Now”: “It’s still me, you know that right? It’s always me.”
Autobiography and imagination walking hand in hand into the sunset.