Bradford's bizarre, species-crossing debut collection of 12 stories hits the mark with its singular characters and odd scenarios, its eccentricities blissfully unforced. Peopled by a cast of hybrid dog-men, cat-faced circus freaks and sweetly bemused, more-or-less ordinary humans, these tales are compact gems, at once provocative and sweet. "Mattress" chronicles the nameless narrator's quest for the eponymous bedding, showcasing the carefree, harmless ethos of a genuine slacker; the plot of "Six Dog Christmas" can be deduced from the title, yet this delicious morsel (it clocks in at under five pages) is a serious charmer. Longer and less focused, though still held together by Bradford's loopy internal logic, is the meandering "Dogs," in which a man impregnates a dog, thus initiating an unsettling series of events involving potential messiahs and a woman in an iron lung giving birth to a litter of puppies. Though Bradford plays with weighty ideas (faith, the line separating man and beast), his less-is-more style may leave some readers wishing for a thicker, meatier text to chew on. However, even the most skeptical will be charmed by his guileless narrative voice. Every story is told from the first person, and though Bradford employs several narrators, the voice throughout remains consistent. Frank, good-hearted, slightly naïve, almost childlike in its simple chronicling of events, it will engage the reader immediately. (Aug. 24)
Forecast:Bradford, an O. Henry Award winner, will attract younger readers with his particular brand of wacky weirdness. Though the jacket—a closeup of a dog—doesn't indicate the strange goings-on within, raves from Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace and David Sedaris will snag browsers.
Release date: 08/01/2001