My Last Martini

Barry Gifford, Author Crane Hill Publishers $9.95 (88p) ISBN 978-1-57587-136-3
Popular as a cult novelist (Night People; The Sinaloa Story) and renowned for his association with filmmaker David Lynch, who directed the 1990 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Prize-winner made from his novel Wild at Heart, Gifford has long mined the realms of the bizarre. This collection of seven--mostly old and reworked--stories is published to coincide with a national book tour for Arcade's June release of his new novel, Wyoming (also soon to be a motion picture). The stories leapfrog from Europe to Africa to Cuba, expressing, however abstrusely, Gifford's Dantean take on life. The title offering is an anecdote about a chance encounter in a Parisian bar with an irrepressible female who, like the narrator, has had one martini too many. The piece ""New Mysteries of Paris"" is a kaleidoscopic parade of vignettes about a madcap--but hardly mad--woman named Nadja, who may or may not represent sanity. ""The Tunisian Notebook"" imagines a long-undiscovered journal by Swiss painter August Macke, which slyly disputes a published diary by fellow artist Paul Klee, recounting their 1914 pilgrimage to Tunisia. The best--and ironically the most conventional--narrative, ""A Fair Price,"" introduces an engaging family of Italian car-nappers. And in ""The Old Days,"" the wryly affecting final sketch, an octogenarian returns to Havana, the city where he sowed his youthful wild oats, to make a superficial peace with his own mortality. This understated tale stands as a fitting conclusion to Gifford's slim but poignant collection of quotidian absurdities. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
Genre: Fiction
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