cover image Flying Leap: Stories

Flying Leap: Stories

Judy Budnitz. Picador USA, $20 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-18097-3

Budnitz dances with the macabre in this daring collection of 23 short stories, each a miniature universe with its own quirky rules, comic and disquieting. At her best, Budnitz, a cartoonist for the Village Voice, brings to absurd situations a clarity reminiscent of the Philip Roth who wrote Our Gang and The Breast. In the savagely funny ""Guilt,"" for instance, a young man caves in to the expectations of his lover, his aunts and his mother's doctors, all of whom want him to donate his heart to his ailing mother; after all, in the end, death may be preferable to hearing reminders such as ""She carried you for nine months. More than nine months. You were late. Do you remember?"" Budnitz is also adept at child's-eye-views of the arbitrary, adult world. In ""Hundred-Pound Baby,"" Nick's dad moves out, yet reassures him that everything will be okay. Nick thinks: ""That's what Newt's dad told him last year. Now his mother works at the Quiki-Mart and dates an old man with white hair and an accent and a glass eye."" Like most first collections, this one could have sustained a final pruning: a few tacked on endings and extended one-liners fail to live up to the rest. Nevertheless, Budnitz's microcosms demand a visit. Author tour. (Jan.)