Speaking with the Angel
A virtual who's who of the latest literary guard, this anthology bristles with the crackly talent and confidence of both the newly and the already fabulous. Included are Hornby himself, Melissa Bank, Dave Eggers, Helen Fielding and Zadie Smith, as well as veteran favorites Roddy Doyle and Irvine Welsh. Every story is told in the first person, and the voices are consistent, fresh, particular. Though some tales veer toward the trendy side of topical, each one surprises and entertains. Eggers's ""After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned"" is told by a pit bull whose anthropomorphized sensibilities and phraseology are quite lovely. Patrick Marber treads on familiar turf in ""Peter Shelley,"" a defloration/coming-of-age story told in a blend of irreverence and awe that seems new. In ""Last Requests,"" Giles Smith imagines some moments in the career of a Death Row chef who does her best to satisfy the inmates' final culinary wants. And Roddy Doyle further ennobles his reputation with ""The Slave,"" in which an anxious, literate, working-class father suffers a mid-life reckoning with a large dead rat in his kitchen. None of these 12 stories disappoints. (Feb. 6) Forecast: An imaginative cover-featuring painted doll-like ceramic busts of the icontributors-will catch browsers' eyes, as will Hornby's name at the top of the jacket. The should sell snappily if prominently displayed, and perhaps more so if it becomes known that some portion of the profits will go to TreeHouse, a British school for autistic children's.