cover image I Like Being Killed: Stories

I Like Being Killed: Stories

Tibor Fischer. Henry Holt & Company, $24 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6601-2

Sharply drawn and often cruel, much-heralded novelist Fischer's first book of short fiction presents a gallery of cynical, angry eccentrics. Some of his desperate, wisecracking English protagonists seize on oddball projects to shape their lives; others are just desperate for cash or sex, or even a comfy place to spend the night. Fischer (Under the Frog; The Collector Collector) offers two novellas and five short stories. The first and longest, ""We Ate the Chef,"" follows resentful, penurious Jim--a former rock band manager, now a failing Internet businessman--as he joins rich acquaintances on the French Riviera. Their hijinks finally let Jim test his ""theory that blondes had better breasts than brunettes."" Fischer's shorter work is stranger and better. ""Portrait of the Artist as a Foaming Deathmonger"" starts off as an ebullient killer's tale of his exploits; neither the man nor his trade are what they seem. ""Bookcruncher"" gives us a well-educated Englishman adrift in New York on a lonely lifetime mission. ""Then They Say You're Drunk"" surveys the petty criminals and pub drunks of an urban neighborhood ""painfully short of warm, goodwill-like emotions"" through the eyes of its quick-tempered narrator. The title novella describes a few days in the life of Miranda Piano, a London stand-up comedian who ""lived for cock."" A failed benefit concert and a surprising trip to Scotland give Miranda the energy to do what she's always wanted to do to her trusting boyfriend. It's hard to call Fischer's work satire, because he provides so little to balance his characters' cynicism; his crisp prose suits those characters perfectly. His stories belong in the abrasive tradition of British comic-novel mayhem, somewhere between Will Self and Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim; readers who find those authors compelling ought to give Fischer a try. (Sept.)