cover image Here Comes Another Lesson: Stories

Here Comes Another Lesson: Stories

Stephen O'Connor, Free Press, $16 paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-4391-8199-7

The impossibility of balancing desire and its fulfillment lies at the center of many of these inventive stories. They range from fabulistic to realistic, and the best ones retain a vague fealty to reality, though the alternate worlds visited are sketched with a skewed, knowing hand, as with "Ziggurat," a droll, slightly disorienting account of the Minotaur in his labyrinth. The mythical monster displays only scorn for his victims until he develops a crush on his latest victim, who diverts him through flattery, cajolery, sharing beers, and teaching him to play pool. Elsewhere, Charles, "the professor of atheism," appears in six stories and skewers the outsized egos of academics even as his own is gratified in the most unlikely ways—before, that is, wry resolutions render each reward a less than ideal outcome. Charles's scholarship is adored; he vacations in Eden; and he eventually confirms his own worst, narcissistic fears. O'Connor (Rescue) is a wizard at engendering sympathy for his characters, who are often simply trying to make sense of situations less certain and comfortable than they might wish. (Aug.)