cover image Ghost Lover

Ghost Lover

Lisa Taddeo. Avid Reader, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-1-982122-18-8

Taddeo (Animal) critiques late-stage capitalism in her smart if sometimes cryptic debut collection. In the title story, a woman spurned by her lover becomes famous after she creates an app that allows female clients to woo potential lovers through beautiful online Cyranos. An older woman in “Forty-two” discovers that life is a numbers game when she learns her ex-lover is about to marry a younger woman. At a Malibu fund-raiser in “American Girl,” three women—a busty waitress, a once famous actor, and a talk show host named Cremora (after the cream substitute)—all vie for the attention of an up-and-coming California politician. In “Air Supply,” a hedonistic 18-year-old high school student and her best friend have their relationship tested during a portentous vacation in Puerto Rico. The stories are parts Didionesque anomie, American Psycho-ish brand invocation (Journelle, Dunhill, Barbuto), and a nonstop barrage of head-scratching non sequiturs masquerading as hip observations (“Pastrami is the polar opposite of Los Angeles,” according to the narrator of “Ghost Lover”). Though the affectless characters can start to wear a bit and begin to feel familiar, they reflect the author’s well-earned reputation for harnessing a vision of America populated by unfulfilled happiness seekers. This isn’t Taddeo’s best, but her fans will dig it. (June)