The stories in Selgin's often masterful debut collection (winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction) focus on faulty passions and dysfunctional romances. The most wickedly satisfying is My Search for Red and Gray Wide-Striped Pajamas, describing the affair between Steven, a poor second-generation Greek immigrant, and his pudgy first cousin Marcia. Steven squirrels away the cash his wily Uncle Nick provides in exchange for wooing Marcia but instead of the requisite wining and dining, Steven takes her virginity, followed by repeated dates on the Staten Island Ferry. In another vein, Selgin explores the idea of woman as woeful mirage. In Color of the Sea, Karina, an enticing Brazilian tourist, goes on a road trip through Crete with the narrator. But Karina, like a glammed up Helen of Troy, leaves our increasingly disillusioned protagonist with nothing but frustration and a bruised heart. Less original, and far less engrossing, are Selgin's depictions of brotherly relations and male camaraderie (The Wolf House, Boy B). Here, his voice is whiny and sophomoric, starkly at odds with the poignant, evocative prose of the other stories. (Oct. 15)
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In Selgin’s 13 stories, soul-searching artists, lonely bachelors, and suicidal retirees drift or swerve toward meaning—or the lack thereof. A failed shoe salesman and aspiring painter chauffeurs a manic Pablo Picasso in a ’37 Fiat Topolino from Hollywood to the Colombian Andes. En route these two swim laps in a hotel pool, dance the salsa at the Mexican border, and save a sulking young girl from a man they imagine to be her captor. In “Sawdust,” a high-school boy spends a summer sanding floors and drinking beef bouillon with his boss while grieving the departure of his high-school English teacher, a man with whom he developed a relationship too close for the school administration’s comfort. Selgin’s mostly male characters are often self-obsessed and at times downright deplorable, but the intricacies of their plights are largely surprising. Although Selgin’s use of violence and the imperviousness of his characters sometimes jeopardize the intimacy between reader and writer, his ability to sling together desire and suffering in complex and moving ways is singular and memorable. --Heather DewarSee all Editorial Reviews
"Driving Picasso" is a masterpiece of understated wryness. The rest of these short stories are an entertaining read but seem an attempt to make something out of nothing. Read morePublished on October 27, 2011 by nonpareil
In Drowning Lessons we are given a full and very entertaining range of short stories by Peter Selgin. Stories whose characters are as varied as their local. Read morePublished on October 26, 2008 by Old Man Reader