The Knack of Doing

Jeremy M. Davies. Godine/Black Sparrow, $18.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-57423-227-1
Davies (Fancy) stretches the boundaries of what is possible in fiction in this eclectic and erudite collection of stories. The opening story, "Forkhead Box," introduces Schaumann, an executioner at Sing Sing who also breeds mice in his basement. The narrator of the story equates Schaumann's mice and his doomed prisoners, but then backtracks and says "I can't be trusted." Nearly every sentence—sometimes every word—feels unexpected and new as the story twists along. Davies transitions from channeling Henry James to sending ultra-hip, postmodern dispatches from the present. The collection also includes inventive stories written in a pop quiz format and sincere, sad stories about love and marriage. In a cautionary story called "Kurt Vonnegut and the Great Bordellos of the Danube Delta," Davies manages to squeeze in metafictional references to himself writing the story, footnotes citing his references, and an anti-manifesto deconstructing Vonnegut's famous eight rules for creative writing. The title story is a tale of a broken family, and Davies is at his best when he delves into this raw, emotional territory, when something more vital than wordplay is at stake. Throughout, Davies's prose simply crackles. He is a craftsman's craftsman and these stories explore the reaches of his seemingly limitless imagination. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
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