cover image Let Me Think: Stories

Let Me Think: Stories

J. Robert Lennon. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64445-049-9

Lennon (Pieces for the Left Hand) deploys his trademark off-kilter, acrimonious humor in this arresting collection. A series of riffs on marriage are sprinkled throughout, involving spouses sparring in an atmosphere of feral domesticity: “Everything is ruin... even love,” thinks an adulterous husband as he falls down the stairs in “Marriage (Whiskey).” There is a theatrical quality to the marital scenes, revealing not so much the inner lives of the combatants but their readiness to quip and wound. Other stories condense an entire history of filial resentment within one sculpted paragraph, as in “Polydactyly,” about a boy born with six fingers on each hand. “Death (After)” gets the job done in one sentence: “I believe in the afterlife in the same way I believe in the afterparty: it may exist, but I’m not invited, and so will never find out.” The “Cottage on the Hill” series is the standout, four eerie accounts of a man’s visits to a rundown rental cabin at different points in his life, in which the place is drastically, sometimes inexplicably, changed each time. If some of the pieces fail to elicit more than a smirk or a nod, there are plenty that dig deep. Lennon has talent to spare. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic (Apr.)