From Publishers Weekly
A master of elevating perversity, callousness and loneliness to the level of story premise, Burgin offers shorts that read as if Raymond Carver and Edgar Allan Poe shared a body and had to write about it. In "The Spirit of New York," a man "gets through his twenties" by inducing, through a variety of creepy contrivances, the startle response in passersby; in the title piece, a secret club takes on the identities of the famous dead and holds meetings of the minds. Matter-of-fact renderings of drugs, STDs, prostitution, alcohol, guns, money, threats, cruelty, shame, desolate public space (often Philadelphia) and depraved indifference shape some stories; others rely on the inherent alienation of boring or dead-end jobs, as when, in "Miles," a fight between a supervisor and trainee results in illicit sex for the eponymous witness. Burgin's style is similarly (and intentionally) prosaic, but it's also the problem: despite fresh-seeming contortions, the people of these 20 stories end up an indistinct, pathological amalgam. Burgin (Ghost Quartet
), who has written seven novels and edits Boulevard
, selects from four previous collections along with new work, and, oddly, includes a CD of his art songs, praised by composer Ned Rorem. (Oct. 17)
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Burgin, author of Ghost Quartet
(1999) and editor of the literary magazine Boulevard,
has gathered 20 of his short stories. Most were previously published, some in literary magazines and others in collections. The title story appears in Best Mystery Stories, 2005.
Characters live lives of noisy desperation in a dark fictional universe populated by victims and victimizers--it's often unclear who's which. Lonely, alienated people act out bizarrely in violent encounters with strangers. They meet in bars, in parks, at parties, and when trolling the streets looking for prostitutes. In this cosmos, there are definitely no free rides. But despite the darkness of the worldview--possibly because of it--there is a fascination to these stories. Dreams shape lives. Twists in the middle of stories and at endings tantalize and keep readers off balance. And there's an ugly attraction to watching perverse characters enmeshed in urban angst. Recommend this book to fans of Alan Cumyn and Robley Wilson. The publication also includes a CD of Burgin's music and miscellanea. Ellen LoughranCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved