cover image Unbuilt Projects

Unbuilt Projects

Paul Lisicky. Four Way Books (UPNE, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (116p) ISBN 978-1-935536-25-3

Lisicky (Lawnboy) is important and well loved within the M.F.A. circuit, and these very short stories, perhaps to a fault, feel limited to that world of faculty readings where adoring students hang on improbable word choices. In one of the most lucid—the three-and-a-half page “What Might Life Be Like in the 21st Century?”—a good but ne’er-do-well student has handed in a decidedly lame science fair project while thinking about his mother’s conversation with his teacher. Despite the intriguing setup, the interactions play out so quickly that the reader isn’t given time to care. While the author clearly holds worthwhile images and characters in his mind, it seems that these were stories meant to be spoken rather than read; perhaps hearing the emphasis in the writer’s voice or the subtle drop in tone when something has gone awry would better illuminate what to hold onto or understand. The collection, with almost 40 stories in 100 pages, feels maddeningly flimsy, with more stock put into the specifically wacky first sentences and subsequently abrupt endings than what falls between. (Nov.)