cover image The Secret Society of Demolition Writers

The Secret Society of Demolition Writers

Sebastian Junger, Benjamin Cheever, Aimee Bender, . . Random, $22.95 (242pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6264-5

Instead of whodunit, this anthology of 12 anonymously penned short stories asks "who wrote it?" Parent gathers tales by well-known authors (including Aimee Bender, Michael Connelly, Sebastian Junger, Elizabeth McCracken, Anna Quindlen, Alice Sebold and himself) under the premise that freedom from reputation and byline leads to exciting storytelling. The device is intriguing—like a blind taste test—but potentially frustrating: the fun of the blind taste test, after all, is when you learn the name of your favorite flavor. And though many pieces deal with dark subjects, it's difficult to feel that anonymity has encouraged much authorial risk. A man falls in love with a women who's killed her parents; a father-to-be unleashes a ghost into the world; two young travelers are caught in a West African war. The finest story in the collection, "Wonderland," centers on a fashion magazine editor—"a fash-mag hag"—recalling a college affair with a custodian that led to unexpected consequences. The quality of the stories varies, but overall is high: why doesn't everyone just slap their names on what they wrote? Maybe because then it'd be just another anthology. (June)