A Lucky Man
The nine stories in Brinkley’s promising debut address persistent issues of race, class, and masculinity across three decades of New York City’s history, from Manhattan’s corporatization in the mid-’90s to the outer boroughs’ gentrification today. In “No More Than a Bubble,” two black Columbia undergrads crash a house party in Brooklyn, where they pair off with two older women with confounding, less-than-successful results. An imaginative young man finds his expectations of upper-middle-class life dashed during a day trip to the suburbs in “I Happy Am,” while a former convict reconnects with a dead buddy’s girlfriend in “A Family.” The title story and “Clifton’s Place” are the collection's two most successful stories, the latter conveying the particular sadness of older African-Americans left adrift by market forces and “revitalization.” Other entries, in plot and in prose, can feel too polite and mannered to register as memorable, nodding toward a stylistic exuberance and transgressive edge that never fully appear. Nonetheless, Brinkley’s stories offer penetrating perspectives and stirring tragedies. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency. (May)
Correction: an earlier version of this review had an incorrect detail about a story and a misleading description.