cover image I Know You Know Who I Am

I Know You Know Who I Am

Peter Kispert. Penguin, $16 trade paper (226p) ISBN 978-0-14-313428-2

Kispert’s piercing debut collection features characters caught in ambivalence and deceit. Many of the stories undercut humor with pangs of regret, such as “In the Palm of His Hand,” which traces the effects of a 20-something man’s detachment as he pretends to be a devout Christian in order to score a date with a religious man. The darkly satirical “Rorschach” tracks a theater entrepreneur’s anguish over the success of his bizarre stage piece “Crucifixion,” which features public executions of death row inmates onstage. Ten of the 21 stories are short-shorts, serving as palate cleansers between the longer, more ambiguous pieces. “Goldfish Bowl” wryly captures the dysfunctional patterns of a failed relationship in two pages, while the full-length title story follows a man’s desperate attempt to hire an actor to impersonate a friend in order to hide his loneliness from his boyfriend. Often, the protagonists sabotage their potential happiness via obsessive self-reflection. The breezy style occasionally belies the effort required to connect the short, splintered scenes and peripheral characters into a coherent picture, though they leave the reader with juicy questions to chew on. This lively and provocative work crisply reflects the challenges of modern love. [em]Agent: Caroline Eisenmann, Frances Goldin Literary Agency. (Feb.) [/em]