A talented young writer explores sex, death, and family relationships in this spare, enticing story collection.
“I only know about parent death and sluttiness,” Schiff declares in “Write What You Know,” the final story in her arresting debut collection. “What else do I know?” She goes on to list a host of other topics—“the psychology of Jewish people who have assimilated,” “liberal guilt and sexual guilt and taking liberties sexually,” “unrequited love, and love that was once requited, but not for very long” among them—all of which we’ve already gleaned from devouring the irresistible stories here. But Schiff leaves out one thing: she also knows how to seduce a reader as blithely as some of her characters casually bed men, writing in stylishly simple and almost staccato prose, beneath the surface of which we soon spot roiling emotions—feelings of loss, the urge to connect. The young women and girls we meet here sleep around and suffer consequences (“The Bed Moved”) or don’t (“Little Girl”). They help their fathers (“Longviewers”), mourn them in expected ways (“Another Cake”), and absorb posthumously revealed paternal secrets (“http://www.msjiz/boxx374/mpeg”). They explore the possibilities of budding sexuality at nerdy Geology Camp (“Schwartz, Spiegel, Zaveri, Cho”) and the limits of proud promiscuity (“Tips”). Some of the 23 stories in this slim volume are amusingly out there (“Rate Me”; “Communication Arts”); others hit close to home. But after taking them all in, we may find ourselves quite taken with this distinctive new voice in fiction, hungry for more of it and—like the collection’s titular bed—moved.
Schiff’s startlingly honest, deliciously wry stories herald the arrival of a beguiling new talent.