cover image Coup de Foudre

Coup de Foudre

Ken Kalfus. Bloomsbury, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-1-62040-085-2

This collection from Kalfus (Equilateral), containing one novella and 15 short stories, overflows with ideas and oddities that mostly succeed. In “Square Paul-Painlevé,” a young man, in deep contemplation, begins to suspect that a park bench possesses an unusual gravitational pull. “The Moment They Were Waiting For” finds the residents of a town suddenly cognizant of the dates they will die, all thanks to a curse uttered by a death-row inmate at his execution. Not all of Kalfus’s narratives hinge on the fantastic, however. The title novella, about the fall of a misogynistic French finance bigwig, echoes the real-life trials of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Similarly, stories such as “Mr. Iraq”—in which a political journalist, on record supporting the invasion of Iraq, attempts to subdue a Washington, D.C. antiwar rally in 2005—and “Laser”—in which a man has laser surgery to curb deterioration from glaucoma in his eye, only to find his vision failing soon thereafter—plant firm roots in situations real and vivid. Still, with so many concepts on display, certain stories fail to thrive. The alphabetized wordplay of “‘City of Spies’” feels more like an exercise than a story, and “Gemini,” though clever in construction—a man recounts the day he lost his job without revealing why—resolves with little satisfaction. (May)