cover image The Complete Gary Lutz

The Complete Gary Lutz

Gary Lutz. Tyrant, $19.95 trade paper (500p) ISBN 978-1-73353-591-5

This transportive omnibus of new and previously collected work by Lutz (Stories in the Worst Way) highlights his precise and distinct method of storytelling. From the very first line (“What could be worse than having to be seen resorting to your own life?”) Lutz holds the reader in a world where characters’ expectations must be vigilantly managed and lowered. His narrators are consummate losers and “historians of grievance,” frequently divorced, usually dwelling in some “guttery” third-tier city, and fighting the sense that they had been born “for no reason other than for hair to have an extra place to grow in the world.” While plot is secondary in Lutz’s stories, some events are memorable. In “Recessional” a grotesque epiphany plays out at a McDonald’s, and in “Slops,” a teacher with colitis makes an all-too-vivid confession. Drama comes from the devastating turn of phrase at which Lutz excels: a woman doesn’t walk so much as “plump”; a woman’s daughters are “tamped down, battening on her”; lives are not so much lived as they are “a dry run for everything certain to follow,” and the misfortunes of a woman are said to have “creased her life for the worse.” Lutz’s madcap genius burnishes unpleasant material into lasting gems. (Dec.)