From Publishers Weekly
Burgin, author of 11 books (including The Spirit of Returns) and publisher of Boulevard, dwells on the violence, and the humor, of misconnection in impressive detail. In "Mayor Bat," a man picks up a drunken woman at a bar, takes her home, and proceeds to humiliate and terrorize her because she is "addicted to humiliation," and he must change her behavior. "The Second Floor" features another sociopath in the form of a man obsessed by a young girl in a Philadelphia park, Abby, whom he probably killed; the second girl he picks up and takes home learns to look and act like Abby to please her keeper. In "Vivian and Sid Break Up," Vivian does the leaving after 13 years, but feels galled by the prospect of Sid's dating another woman. The narrator of "Robert and His Wife" is a lonely man who befriends the charismatic Robert at a literary meeting, but finds double dating his fabulous ex-wife. The title story, set at a Florida conference on beauty that grows increasingly more confessional and bizarre, concludes this astute exploration-touched with satire-of emotional vacancy and its attendant brutality.
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Burgin skates along the edge of realism and dark fantasy in fiction so supremely well made that all manner of fancy and menace is readily ingested. Founder and editor of Boulevard
, a professor, a Pushcart Prize regular, and the author of a dozen books, including The Identity Club
(2005), Burgin is sophisticated, versatile, and receptive to the strange amalgams of voluntary and involuntary behavior that add up to our polymorphous nature. Each short story in his sixth collection pairs opposites and swerves in unpredictable directions. Sometimes disaster is averted, as in the tricky, ultimately charming "Vivian and Sid Break Up," or repressed, as in the masterfully creepy "The Second Floor," a story about a young prostitute and a seemingly timid rich man. In another, an aging and presumptive movie star seduces her wimpy biographer and snubs her handsome butler. In another, a journalist infiltrates a conference ostensibly concerned with aesthetics that has morphed into something monstrous, a devolvement in keeping with Burgin's wily humor and sure sense of the fine line between the absurd and the malignant, the droll and the consequential. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved