This fourth collection from editor and writing guru Lish contains 44 fragmentary pieces that fall uneasily between the categories of short stories and narcissistic confessional essays. Most of the entries revolve around a man by the name of Gordon Lish; even in the stories in which the narrator/protagonist is not named, the tone remains the same. The first-person narration confronts the reader with an aggressive archness as the protagonist unloads personal details that make one squirm: ""Why would I want to tell people made-up stories? I can't stand made-up stories. It makes me sick to hear a made-up story."" Yet, despite their personal ventings, only a few stories breach the stylistic and emotional barrier with which Lish insulates himself from the reader. ""Eats with Ozick and Lentricchia,"" a stream-of-consciousness tale in which the mournful narrator waits for the real-life writer and critic in a restaurant, has an intimacy and accessibility largely absent elsewhere, but those who read last year's novel, Epigraph, which dealt with the death of the wife of a character named Gordon Lish, will find the subject matter derivative. In general, the helter-skelter prose, the in-your-face vulgarity, the minute-to-minute accounts in which nothing happens and the unvarying tone of confrontation and rage make this a frustrating reading experience. Readers will not wish to indulge Lish as much as he has indulged himself. (Dec.) FYI: Four Walls Eight Windows will simultaneously reissue Extravaganza.
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997 Release date: 10/01/1997 Genre: Fiction
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