A career-spanning compilation of fascinating short fiction and flash fiction from Grayson (And to Think that He Kissed Him on Lorimer Street, 2006, etc.), ranging from his first published story (1975’s â€œRampant Burping”) to fresh work.
Rooted in post-modernism, Grayson’s economical writing style abets a natural gift for storytelling, and his tales are imbued with a comic touch–whether darkly so, or merely playful. In one example of the former, a caustic protagonist in â€œThose Seventies Stories” pretends to be one of a pair of twin brothers whenever he frequents area diners in order to alternately abuse and sympathize with a dull yet harmless local. The immediately preceding â€œThe Life of Katz,” on the other hand, seems to be little more than an exercise in enumerating a litany of dog- and cat-related puns and idioms. This kind of nonchalance usually plays to Grayson’s strengths, but sometimes his tendency toward self-indulgence gets the better of him. A few stories find the author employing tics to mark his fiction as quirky–â€œAn Appropriated Story,” for instance, uses the copyright symbol as a scene break–or using formal subversion to oversell his point, as in â€œUnobtrusive Methods, Inchoate Designs,” whose narrator breaks the fourth wall to deliver a brief, meta-fictional address on the nature of reality and perception that only renders the story frivolous. At his best, though, Grayson deftly explores the dilemmas of suspended youth–specifically the ache of the lovelorn, the search for purpose and the tendency to cling desperately to the familiar. To many of his characters, this means remaining perpetually in academia, earning advanced degrees while struggling to choose career paths or endlessly returning to camp as counselors late into their 20s (â€œLife with Libby”). In â€œAlbertson’s Pulls Out of New Orleans,” an Idaho transplant to the Deep South is almost unreasonably obsessed with a local branch of his hometown supermarket chain, to the point of ineptly transferring his affections for the brand onto one of its cashiers.
Funny, pleasurable and often prescient short fiction that delivers many more hits than misses.