The strongest stories in this collection…don't try too hard to dazzle with formal virtuosity but let Meno slowly pull his characters out from their own peculiar inner worlds into the one we recognize, for better or for worse, as the "real" world. Loss seems to be the lingua franca that unites these souls; Meno's sympathy for them is acute, and he never lets fictional pyrotechnics blind him, or us, to their humanity.
The New York Times
Spanning worlds, generations, cultures and environments, each of Meno's short stories in this stellar collection explores depression, loneliness and insanity in the world, while never quite offering a clear solution or glimmer of hope. Misery loves company, and Meno's assortment of off-center, morose characters fit seamlessly together. Even with their almost kitschy specificity, stories such as "I Want the Quiet Moments of a Party Girl" and "Art School Is Boring So" never become pretentious or unnecessarily complex. Meno plays with supernatural elements throughout the collection, and his risky moves-such as having a protagonist turn into a cloud in "People Are Becoming Clouds" or a woman whose insides are overrun by a miniature city in "Airports of Light"-always pay off. Each story is illustrated by a different artist, from Schizo series cartoonist Ivan Brunetti to the husband and wife duo kozyndan, known for their depictions of modern cityscapes. Catering to all the odd men out in the world, this short story collection succeeds word to word, sentence to sentence, and cover to cover. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A girl will only go out in public dressed as a ghost. A zookeeper sets the animals free. A wife becomes a cloud when her husband kisses her. A girl lives her life as a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. The only elephants left on Earth are miniatures kept as pets. The moon stops glowing. A city grows in a woman's chest. Odd as these scenarios may seem, Meno renders them not just plausible but indicative of deeper truths within and between people. His prose can be very spare and direct to great effect. "Apples are kissing other apples. Gray cats are kissing other gray cats. Trees are kissing trees. You and I are not kissing. We work in an office together." It can also be complex and luminous but never flowery. As he demonstrated in his earlier collection, Bluebirds Used To Croon in the Choir, Meno knows just how to press a variety of emotional buttons ranging from giddy delight to not-quite-hopeless despair. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.
An inspired collection of 20 stories, brilliant in its command of tone and narrative perspective. Among the features that distinguish the latest from Chicago author Meno (The Boy Detective Fails, 2006, etc.) are illustrations for each story by a top graphic artist (Ivan Brunetti, Charles Burns and Archer Prewitt among them). Another plus: Some of the proceeds will help support 826Chicago, a tutoring center for student writers from the McSweeney's magazine combine. Creativity and empathy mark the collection. Most of the narrators (and/or protagonists) are misfits at odds with the world or with themselves-brothers involved in complex relationships; lovers who have yet to consummate their affairs or have become estranged; kids misunderstood or misused by adults. They often reveal more to the reader than they know about themselves, as they struggle to learn, as one wife tells her husband, "how to be happy in a world that isn't as good as you think it should be." The most astonishing story is "Airports of Light," in which a woman's malignant tumor is depicted as a city growing inside her, one where her lover can travel if he's willing to abandon the world he knows. Another standout, "The Unabomber and My Brother," mixes fact and fiction, while the elliptically rich opening story, "Frances the Ghost," about a "small, strange girl" who is both very precocious and very disturbed, shows how Meno's tales reveal themselves gradually, in stages. Titles tell the tales: "Miniature Elephants Are Popular" features pets the size of tiny dogs, "Art School Is Boring So" offers the ruminations of a student who "hates mass production but . . . secretly likes Britney Spears." "What a Schoolgirl You Are"addresses the reader as a teenaged girl and "Oceanland" details the world's most decrepit family theme park. Two of the shorter stories, "The Boy Who Was a Chirping Oriole" and "Iceland Today," read more like postmodern gimmicks, but even here Meno is never less than amusing. Illustrations enhance the already vivid storytelling.