cover image In the Flesh: Stories

In the Flesh: Stories

Koren Shadmi, . . Villard, $14.95 (145pp) ISBN 978-0-345-50871-3

In his debut collection of graphic short stories, Israel-born Shadmi tries to have the last word in sexual malevolence in angst-ridden tales of couplings that go horrendously awry. Alienation reigns in pieces like “The Fun Lawn,” where a man with an underage online porn habit who works in a giant dog suit on a children’s TV show is flummoxed when a beautiful young woman comes on to him, but may just like him for the dog suit. Most of the more effective stories go straight for David Cronenberg–style issues of bodily invasion, such as “Radioactive Girlfriend,” in which a man’s proximity to his lover proves potentially fatal. Surrealist pieces like “Pastry Paradise” and “A Lavish Affair” not so subtly conflate issues of sexual desire, hunger and disgust to fairly little effect. The more simply constructed stories tend to have more punch, like “What Is Wrong with Me?” which humorously contrasts what happens after a late-night hookup separates in the morning; the man pines in agonized love while the woman ignores his calls and watches TV. Shadmi’s art is expressive and simple, focusing on entwined limbs and eyes pinned open with worry, but it’s his sharp writing (shades of Etgar Keret’s violent whimsy) that really brings this collection together. (Feb.)