Twelve stories in a range of styles, each haunting and evocative.
In the title story, LaSalle creates a menacing atmosphere involving a sleeping mask, “black velvet on the inside...magenta satin, shimmery, on the outside.” A man offers it to his lover, who is never named and who never speaks. As he talks to her smoothly and incessantly, their relationship remains dark, mysterious, and disturbing. “What Can’t Not Happen” at first seems a straightforward narrative of a group of college students visiting art museums in Paris. They go to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, but something’s weirdly out of kilter, for they’re visiting late at night...and it turns out they’re all dead. Two of LaSalle’s experimental stories go in wildly different directions: “Found Fragment from the Report on the Cadaver Dogs of Northern Maine, 1962” consists of a single sentence in turbulent stream-of-consciousness, while “E.A.P.: A Note” reads like a scholarly article—complete with footnotes—on several telling dreams of Edgar Allan Poe. In addition to these experiments in fiction, LaSalle handles “realistic” stories particularly well, though he rarely strays far from a dreamlike atmosphere. Perhaps the best piece in the collection is the final one, “A Late Afternoon Swim,” in which the narrator reminisces about a time when he was 11 or 12 and was encouraged by his mother to go swimming at a beach club in Rhode Island, an act about which he feels apprehensive. The narrator uses a French reference book his mother was reading at the time as a catalyst to move back and forth between memory and reality, chagrin and resentment, past and present.
LaSalle’s prose is lyrical, at times rhapsodic, and his characters memorable.