The Follies of Richard Wadsworth
Maandag (The Libertarian
) showcases his excellent deadpan, cringe-inducing humor in this hilariously unsettling collection of three short stories. Using a spare line and a minimum of expressiveness, he repeatedly skewers the self-important, the self-righteous, and the self-absorbed. In the title story, Wadsworth is a buffoonish philosophy professor whose baser instincts lead to increasingly poor and absurd decisions (with some mistaken identity mishaps along the way). In “Night School,” an absurdly byzantine business class veers into madness when a visiting fire chief adds his own deranged input on leadership and discipline. A monastery is the site of “The Disciple,” wherein lust-crazed monks try to find loopholes for their desires while a monkey makes fools of them all. Maandag’s iron-clad commitment to each story’s setup is essential to how uncomfortably funny they become as he layers on absurdist elements, and the occasional surprise visual gags are effective (such as when Wadsworth starts climbing a wall like Spider-Man). This painfully funny book will resonate with anyone coping with arbitrary, pompous authority figures. (June)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the Nick Maandag's last name.