Michel Faber, Author . Harcourt $14 (276p) ISBN 978-0-15-601148-8

Readers who were fascinated by Under the Skin, Faber's cleverly grotesque social satire about human animals, will find plenty more where that came from in this beguilingly bizarre collection of 15 short stories. Faber works from a number of different conceits, one of his favorites being to take an ordinary perspective and reverse it, which he does with great imagination in "Toy Story," a whimsical yarn about a wandering young God who finds a ball-shaped planet earth to play with while rummaging in the rubbish. He takes an analogous approach in "Sheep," a tongue-in-cheek meditation about the nature of art in which five New York City artists are spirited away to Scotland under false pretenses for a visit to the nonexistent Alternative Centre of the World. Occasionally the conceits get away from him, though, most notably in "Accountability," a strange, over-the-top account of a poverty-stricken woman facing an abortion: she writes a detailed financial request to NASA after reading about the $23-million toilet required for the mission. "Nina's Hand" has similar problems, as it is told exclusively and somewhat obsessively from the viewpoint of a young woman's hand. As entertaining and interesting as Faber can be, solid character development is relatively rare in these stories. In "The Tunnel of Love," however, the quality of characterizations matches that of the premise, as an unemployed young ad man who takes a job hustling patrons at a porn theater falls in love with the woman who runs the theater's bookshop. That story represents the best work of a fast-developing talent, in a collection well stocked with impressive stylistic snapshots. (Aug.)

Forecast:This is a nice counterpoint to Arthur Bradford's higher-profile Dogwalker (Knopf; Forecasts, July 23), rivaling it in weirdness but favoring sophistication over carefully calibrated innocence. Bradford buyers might be happily steered toward it.

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-84767-406-7
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