Stories in the Worst Way

Stories in the Worst Way

by Gary Lutz
     
 

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Fiction. Short Stories. Originally released by Knopf in 1996, Lutz's rigorously innovative debut barely made a ripple in the mainstream publishing world. Meanwhile, however, the book attained a cult status, and its influence has grown tremendously in the years since its appearance, disappearance, and reappearance."Gary Lutz is a sentence writer from another planet… See more details below

Overview


Fiction. Short Stories. Originally released by Knopf in 1996, Lutz's rigorously innovative debut barely made a ripple in the mainstream publishing world. Meanwhile, however, the book attained a cult status, and its influence has grown tremendously in the years since its appearance, disappearance, and reappearance."Gary Lutz is a sentence writer from another planet, deploying language with unmatched invention. He is not just an original literary artist, but maybe the only one to so strenuously reject the training wheels limiting American narrative practice. What results are stories nearly too good to read: crushingly sad, odd, and awe-inspiring"--Ben Marcus.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Postmodern in tone and structure, the 36 short stories collected in this debut by Lutz are unremittingly grim, pretentious and oblique. More character studies than narratives, the pieces involve unsavory, self-hating characters: an antisocial college professor with an unfortunate bowel condition ("Slops"); an obsessive, gay office drone who spends his days secretly harassing his female co-workers ("Certain Riddances''); another gay man whose random promiscuity masks a deeper loneliness ("SMTWTFS''). The narratives themselves are static, if vivid, portraits. In "Waking Hours," a gay, divorced man with a dull new job instructing middle-management types on "how to bestow awards on undeserving employees'' describes himself as "self-devastated," and goes on to prove it: he has a strained meal with the "mothered-down version" of his young son; he believes that check-out clerks at the supermarket might truly understand him through eye-contact; he pays attention toand mimicsevery noise his fellow tenants make in his apartment building. In a grotesque, misogynist fable, "The Pavilion," a man devises "a new angle on how to start a family," which essentially turns out to be hiring a woman, getting her pregnant and then, before an audience, pulling out her teeth and tongue while she gives birth. In spite of Lutz's flair with an airlessly ironic wit and occasional clever wordplay (an office worker's "extracubicular life"), these stories, all too unoriginally, live up to the collection's title. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Lutz's short, experimental pieces (some a mere 100 words) are sure to intrigue some and offend and baffle others. Lutz (English, Univ. of Pittsburgh) does not shrink from, and at times revels in, what most would consider the most unmentionable bodily functions, yet he does so in a way that is vital to the story. His characters are almost all nameless, and most are loners or people who view their lives as something abstract or apart from themselves. Lutz's unique style and approach should interest students of writing, but the general reader may finish each story thinking, "Huh?" For literary collections.-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow
Kirkus Reviews
Mordant debut collection of terse stories (some only a few paragraphs long), featuring a playful use of language in the service of a grim vision of contemporary life.

Lutz's protagonists are, typically, obsessive catalogers of life's minutiae, going through the motions at vaguely delineated jobs, baffled by life, between relationships and wondering, as one puts it, "at what point people become environments for one another to enter." All of them would agree with the harassed character who stops the narrator of "When You Got Back" on a parking lot to complain cryptically that "there was something unutterably troubling and unfinished about what had happened." In these tales, of course, the important things have happened long ago, and they happened somewhere offstage. What Lutz offers is the aftermath. In "Slops," a college professor in his "shadowed, septic thirties," suffering from colitis, offers brief descriptions of the ways in which he keeps colleagues and students ("the whole faceless, rostered population of them") at a distance. Indirectly, something larger, a sense of the haunted, hapless nature of the man, comes through. In "Recessional," the narrator ("a shadow- slopping, chronically how-evering man") finds himself increasingly unable to utter even the simplest commands, to communicate at all, or to take action, and is reduced to precisely describing even the smallest gestures of those around him, as if to recapture his rapidly evaporating self. The problem is that the language these figures use, the exact, even prissy, descriptive monologues common to the pieces, is at first startling but quickly, across the span of many tales, becomes rather deadening. And the disaffected figures here, who seem at first both deeply alarming and memorable, begin to seem too much alike.

There's no doubt that Lutz offers a distinctive, disturbing vision of an anomic world. But a little of this vision goes a very long way.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780979808074
Publisher:
Calamari Press
Publication date:
03/15/2009
Pages:
164
Sales rank:
623,724
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.50(d)

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