The dynamic Brooklyn cityscape serves as the backdrop in this beguiling collection of short stories.
Grayson’s tenth volume of fiction introduces a multicultural multitude of characters, including a teen lesbian from Uzbekistan who works as a Brooklyn Cyclones hot-dog mascot and a gay black student whose Pakistani roommate’s pet monkey helps him find acceptance on a mildly homophobic campus. Most, though, are slight variations on the quasi-autobiographical persona of a middle-aged white man reminiscing about the friends, families, lovers and locales that have populated his life. Grayson often constructs his loose, episodic narratives with a pop-culture scaffolding, as in â€œSeven Sitcoms,” in which the narrator meditates on his relationship with his family’s black housekeeper through a commentary on the racial and class stereotypes of early TV sitcoms; and â€œ1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow,” a reconstruction of a love affair between a man and his much younger stepbrother, paired with a hilarious exegesis of a comic-book hero in decline. In other stories, like â€œBranch Libraries of Southeastern Brooklyn” and â€œThe Lost Movie Theaters of Southeastern Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach,” the author maps out memories against the geography of his beloved Brooklyn, with excursions to Los Angeles and South Florida. Grayson’s low-key, conversational prose is injected with flashes of wry wit (â€œI live in a neighborhood where neighbors notice my lack of body art”), but some of the slighter pieces are no more than droll shaggy-dog stories. The more substantial ones, however, like â€œConselyea Street,” about a gay man with a younger Japanese lover reflecting on his Williamsburg neighborhood’s demographic transitions–from Italian to Hispanic to hipster to yuppie–fuse vivid characters with a keen sense of place and cultural specificity.
A funny, odd, somehow familiar and fully convincing fictional world.