All God’s Angels, Beware!
Crisp (Shrike) stakes his claim to the territory of existential dread with this expanded edition of a short fiction collection first published in 2009. The stories are largely told in the first person, touching on themes of Japanese culture, the pointlessness of everyday life, and the terrors of intimacy. Moments of unexpected tenderness leaven the relentless gloom: “Italiannetto” is a genuinely sweet reminiscence of love and inspiration, made all the more powerful by the surrounding unsettling tales of sexual dysfunction like “The Fox Wedding” and “Asking for It.” The narrator of “A Cup of Tea” may be painfully incapable of surviving in the workaday world, but is still very capable of affection even in the midst of despair. The book’s saving grace is that ability to mitigate the worst of the overwrought self-indulgence of the neurasthenic narrators with flashes of emotion, making it simultaneously deeper and more accessible than its many characters might have wished. (Sept.)