Here Comes Another Lesson

In his hotly anticipated collection of short stories, Stephen O'Connor makes sense of the nonsensical.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Highly praised and hotly anticipated, Here Comes Another Lesson is a deeply inventive collection of stories that examine the limitations of modern humanity and morality in bold, convincing strokes. Stephen O’Connor gives us a portrait of human life and all its harrowing peculiarities that’s equal parts funny, strange and poignant.

O’Connor wastes no time before diving into oddities, opening the collection with “Ziggurat,” in which a young girl meets a minotaur. Incomprehensibly, the monster develops an affinity for the girl and the pair soon fall into a progressively bizarro, labyrinthine version of their world that morphs the story into a meditation on the wandering pursuits that make up a life.

Surrealism is a recurring device, and is particularly evident in a series of stories about an atheism professor who’s thrown into an increasingly odd series of adventures in several expertly preposterous versions of the afterlife. He finds angel wings, quests for a phallic tree of knowledge and gets to second base with God, though he never strays from his faith (or lack thereof). O’Connor uses the character’s spiritual estrangement as a metaphor for alienation in a broader sense.

Two other stories, “Love” and “Aunt Jules,” examine amorous relationships with near-tactile accuracy, abandoning the absurd (mostly) in favor of photorealistic portraits of romance and all the things that make it an impossibly awkward, terrifying and essential part of our existence. And despite a few uneven tales sprinkled throughout, O’Connor deftly manages to make sense of the nonsensical.

Stephen O’Connor reads at Bookculture September 16.

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By Stephen O'Connor (Free Press Original Paperback, $15)