cover image Anxious Pleasures: A Novel After Kafka

Anxious Pleasures: A Novel After Kafka

Lance Olsen, . . Shoemaker & Hoard, $15 (179pp) ISBN 978-1-59376-135-6

Following Nietzsche's Kisses (2006), Olsen treats another great modernist to postmodernist investigation, this time retelling Kafka's The Metamorphosis from the supporting cast's points-of-view. Olsen hews closely to the original, and his additions, excursions and elaborations are simultaneously stimulating and entertaining: intermittent sections relate the contemporary story of Margaret, an insecure young woman whose grandparents have gone missing and who is reading Kafka's masterpiece for the first time, and that of the Samsas' downstairs neighbor, a writer who is inspired by the strange noises upstairs to write a novella-length allegory in which "a man will awake with meat cleavers for hands. The moral will be that the meaning of life is that it stops." Characters who appear only briefly in Kafka's work here provide texture and a broader canvas, but the Samsa family, though given magnificent voices, aren't particularly developed. Intricately woven and richly imagined, Olsen's novel is a cerebral treat unto itself and a fine companion to Kafka's original. (Mar.)