cover image A Spell for the Fulfillment of Desire

A Spell for the Fulfillment of Desire

Don Webb. Northwestern University Press, $9.95 (147pp) ISBN 978-1-57366-012-9

The jacket copy describes this book as ""a Postmodern magical papyrus."" Maybe. It's not really a collection of short fiction, not poetry, not even a series of writing experiments; so, if papyrus is a continuous scroll composed of slim strips, the description could be apt. The works in this anthology are genuinely surprising, but that doesn't mean they're always successful. Webb (Uncle Ovid's Exercise Book) occasionally gets caught up with his own cleverness, as in ""After Abish,"" an unreadable four-page short story in which every word begins with the letter A. On the other hand, certain pieces highlight Webb's abilities. ""Late Night at Webster's"" is a whimsical speculation about how new words spring into being. The dialogue is funny and fresh. ""Nor Sleet Nor Hail"" is the story of Tom Ezzell, a postal clerk who can't bear unhappiness. He is so opposed to the whole concept of sadness, in fact, that he reads every letter that comes through his office and changes those that sound like they contain bad news. And Webb proves he's not limited to humor in ""A Stele [sic] for the Fulfillment of Desire,"" which is quite effective as erotic fiction. While not for everyone, it is a good choice for those who like fantasy, humor and experimental writing. (May)