Jerks

Sara Lippmann. Mason Jar, $21 (154p) ISBN 978-1-951853-10-5

Lippmann’s tantalizing collection (after Doll Palace) offers a set of character studies fraught with longing. The bittersweet “Wolf or Deer” depicts young girls at summer camp playing Would You Rather. A question offering the choice of cannibalism or starvation earns the reply, “I’d totally eat you,” leading to explicit sexual questions and expressions of desire. “Har-Tru” depicts a group of moms watching their kids fumble through tennis lessons while gossiping about a reality-television series, polyamory, and their own fantasies. In “Charity Case,” a woman pines for her music teacher, a former soap opera star who barely notices her. “There’s a Joke Here Somewhere and It’s on Me” utilizes flash fiction to encapsulate the confusing rush of adolescence. In the title story, a married couple runs a side hustle making beef jerky to stave off, among other things, their depression and midlife crises. Just as it goes for many characters here, the unexpected outcome leaves them with bitter resignation. Lippmann packs a great deal into a single turn of phrase, balancing vulnerability and humor with luminescent prose. The compression and bursts of poignancy will remind readers of Kathy Fish and Amy Hempel. (Mar.)
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