Carroll & Graf's cover copy claims that McIntyre "brings together the comic milieu of David Sedaris with the exquisite crafting of Alice Munro," and while McIntyre does offer quirky scenarios (teenage hoodlums kidnapping a kid in a kangaroo costume; a 40-something wife performing a cocaine-fueled interpretive dance for a roomful of younger strangers) and moments of subtle insight (though they are hardly Munrovian), what he delivers primarily is a kind of unharnessed intelligence and insufficiently edited creativity, which he demonstrates in a bumpy series of eight stories revolving around the need for love and acceptance, whether it is from a lover, oneself or one's pet octopus. In "Binge," cocaine-snorting Lynn attends a party, ruminates on her attraction to a younger woman, considers her annoyance at her husband and, after the aforementioned dance, finds redemption of a sort thanks to a subway preacher. As an attempt at poignancy, it falls flat; it reads like a sudden end-stop for a garrulous narrator. "Octo" is similarly challenged, as a boy must part with his beloved and now deceased pet octopus, and a roller-coaster ride serves to symbolically link him—in terror—with his nasty sister. "ONJ.com" and "Disability," which consider complicated relationships between young gay men and their associates, ring true, however; the latter especially points to McIntyre's promise.
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In this quirky collection of short stories, McIntyre proves himself an exciting new voice in literature. "Octo" is a tragicomic tale of a disturbed 12-year-old and his voracious pet octopus. In "ONJ.com," a young advertising woman decides that she wants a gay man for a friend. When a freelancer with a penchant for Olivia Newton John and other men comes to work for her, she is delighted until she learns that he wants something from her, too. The strongest story is "Disability." While Frank is not completely honest about the level of his disability, he honestly cares about the people in his life. And while he is busy taking care of them, he finds something for himself. The last story is a quieter piece. "Nightwalking" tells the story of a woman sleepwalking through the major events in her life, figuratively and actually. Filled with witty dialogue, strong and varied characters, and the power to move and disturb, this is a brilliant debut. Elizabeth Dickie
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