LAUGH TRACK

David Galef, Author
David Galef, Author . Univ. of Mississippi $25 (222p) ISBN 978-1-57806-422-9
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Fifteen far-ranging and idiosyncratic glimpses of life—most often from a dark, quixotic psychosocial perspective—make up this collection, selected from more than 60 published stories by Galef (Turning Japanese; Flesh). The topics are curious and far-ranging: the last day of an over-the-hill mob enforcer ("Butch"), the struggles of a blocked gag writer who plays canned laughter at his therapy sessions ("Laugh Track"), the interaction between a chimerical landlord and a novelist who has come to Mexico to work on a memoir ("The Landlord") and the angst of an American lawyer who tries to forget his gay lover by running off to Greece ("All Cretans"). The opening vignette ("You") imagines the day of the author's conception, and a third-grade teacher whose love-life is on the skids acts out her sexual frustration on a precocious male student in "Triptych." The tersely noted impressions of a juror in "Jury Duty" and a college instructor's wry account of his eccentric writing workshop in "Metafiction" up the humor quotient, while arguably the darkest and most affecting of the stories is "Dear, Dirty Paris," which recounts the experience of a high school student on her maiden trip to the City of Light. Her parents entrust her to the care of two rather questionable men who had provided them with a similar introduction to the city in their youth. Though well crafted, this set is likely a bit obscure for mainstream readers, but fans of literary fiction will be won over by Galef's ironic and enigmatic sensibility. (Mar.)

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