cover image To Be a Man

To Be a Man

Nicole Krauss. Harper, $26.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-243102-8

This triumphant first collection from Krauss (Forest Dark) crisscrosses the globe in 10 ambitious stories written over two decades that wrestle with sexuality, desire, and human connection. In one of the greatest stories, “Seeing Ershadi,” a dancer believes she spies the star of the Iranian film Taste of Cherry while in Japan for a performance, and believes she must save the actor from the suicide he commits in the film. After a friend tells her of her own unique encounter with the actor years earlier, the dancer faces the depth of her fanatic and obsessive state. Another highlight, “Future Emergencies,” is set shortly after 9/11 and remains timely as its female protagonist navigates a New York City where gas masks are distributed for free and local governments warn of vague threats. “I Am Asleep but My Heart Is Awake,” another standout, concerns a woman visiting her dead father’s apartment in Tel Aviv, only to find a stranger living in a back room, and the collection’s title story breaks a woman’s interactions with several men into four parts to ruminate on gender norms and expectations. Krauss’s style is marked by a willingness to digress into seemingly superfluous details, yet the minutiae helps the author conjure a series of realistic environments, allowing each story feel lived in. This is a spectacular book. (Nov.)