A series of tautly crafted, introspective short stories that get to the heart of personal struggle (divorce, addiction, romance), one character at a time.
The first story in the collection, â€œThe New & Improved Lost Generation,” begins with two characters who â€œmet at a well-known rehab center in L.A.” and â€œgot to know each other in group.” This tale, which recounts the dissolution of Harry and Jenny’s romance, sets the tone for the rest of the book. Nethercott’s stories resemble mini-autobiographies–bits and pieces of everyday people’s lives. The element separating these characters from laypeople, however, is the way they live without boundaries or conventional limitations. In story after story, the characters seem to have lost their way. Hopkins is a retired boxer who scrapes together enough money to eat and keep a roof over his head by busing tables at dingy restaurants and noisy cafeterias. When the nameless narrator of this particular tale, a writer trying to find his way, befriends Hopkins, the author reveals that the two men will change each others’ lives forever. After a few days of crossing paths at Clifton’s, a downtown cafeteria, the storyteller comments about Hopkins, â€œI’d see him once in a while, sometimes to get a drink, and sometimes I ran into him late at night at Clifton’s. I guess we were friends in a way.” Chance meetings are a common thread in these 13 short stories–these interactions leave the characters changed. For the most part, Nethercott’s writing is tight and fluid. However, as well-paced as these unorthodox stories are, there are moments of unrealistic, expositional awkwardness: â€œThis isn’t a story, really it’s a portrait. It’s a snapshot of what my life was like at that time. I never knew what would happen next, who would wander into my life, and who would wander out.” These rhythmless jolts interrupt the flow instead of enlightening the reader. The other blemish to these otherwise well-crafted short stories are the many typos, which increase in number toward the book’s closing.
Errors aside, an insightful and reflective short-story collection that examines the high and lows of life.