cover image Inherited Disorders

Inherited Disorders

Adam Ehrlich Sachs. Regan Arts, $26.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-68245-015-4

Sachs’s stellar debut collection comprises 117 very short stories about fathers and sons: an assortment of absurdist scenarios from a Harvard-trained intellect with the timing of a borscht belt comedian. In the first story, an Austrian nature poet writing about ferns and creeks despairs when critics see in his work nothing but references to his notorious Nazi father. In “Siegel’s Shoes,” both sons of the owner of Chicago’s oldest shoe store aspire to scientific careers. The older brother takes over the family business, while the younger becomes a physicist fixated on a theory of alternate universes defined by different choices. Other protagonists include a samurai warrior, a labor historian, a historian of the Ottoman Empire, a chairman of the Federal Reserve, and a sweeper for the Canadian curling team. Whether it’s a biologist obsessed with nematodes or a philosopher taking a New England vacation, these unfortunate fellows find themselves self-destructing under the weight of their paternal relationships. Metaphor becomes literal reality when a father’s cryogenic head plagues a failed screenwriter, the philosopher son of a chimney sweep contemplates what he calls “the philosophical flue,” and sons of ice climbers search for fathers who have fallen through the cracks. Among the most haunting images are the last two living speakers—father and son—of a dead Finnic language, figures thought to be father and son buried at Pompeii, and a Cleveland assisted-care facility’s surrogate-son program. With his humor, wit, and imagination, Sachs proves himself a perceptive observer of human nature and a distinctly promising talent. (May)