cover image The Burning House

The Burning House

Paul Lisicky. Etruscan (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-981-96878-0

In Lisicky's third outing, a vigorous, interior-driven narrative plays out within the tense, anticlimactic relationship among three people sharing an inherited house set on an exotic coastal lagoon. Isidore Mirsky, unemployed at 32 after an accident involving his truck, is a well-meaning jack-of-all-trades. He pumps up with weights, and he cleans the beautiful house that his very competent, lovely wife, Laura, has inherited from her recently deceased mother while Laura's younger sister, Joan, who lives with them, inhabits the laundry room and volunteers with a community group actively trying to bar the building of townhouses nearby. Simmering under Isidore's pungent impressions of himself%E2%80%94his self-importance and aimlessness%E2%80%94is his attraction to Joan, and his hot afternoon sex with a woman he meets in the supermarket parking lot, even though he declares his love for Laura (who exhibits strangely hysterical symptoms, perhaps having had a miscarriage). Isidore's looming sense of being a failure and his wife's being on to him ("I know your type," she assures him), fuel his yearning for the more fragile, flawed, unsure sister, yet the only thing these three unmoored characters share in the end is the flu. Lisicky (Famous Builder) is a beautiful and powerful writer; his prose has a palpable energy that demands close attention, but the subtle narrative is smothered by the story's constrained resolution. (May)