Partial List of People to Bleach

Time Out Ratings :

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

Despite its brevity and zine-ish format, Gary Lutz’s bold and original new story collection feels like one of the season’s biggest books. Over the past decade, Lutz, the author of Stories in the Worst Way and I Felt Alive, has won a cult following and the worshipful adoration of authors such as Amy Hempel, Sam Lipsyte and Brian Evenson. Like those writers, Lutz has a flair for crisp, innovative sentences, only his prose is even more angular, surprising and compressed. In the story “Pulls,” he describes a woman like this: “Thirty-eight years of picked-over, furying age she was—brittled hair, a bulwark forehead, a voice that sounded blown through.”

Most of these highly eccentric stories concern sad-sacky guys with curdled emotions and unpredictable sexual appetites. Lutz favors mood and mind-set over story lines and resolutions. Characters and places remain unnamed, and relationships get summed up in lines such as: “Her feelings came down to me now in just dwindlements of the original.” That’s vague, to be sure, but this highly controlled author uses abstraction to his advantage, forcing us into what seems like an acutely aware state of reading, in which we almost understand what’s happening but never quite do. It’s realism for people who believe in the power of language and are constantly aware of its limitations.

Lutz might be melancholy, but his charismatic musings on human frailty can also be hilarious. Who else would describe an underachiever as “an uncrusading man, rebuttable in everything”? This thin chapbook is currently the best way to get a lump of Lutz. Savor it. —

Lutz reads Sun 1.

By Gary Lutz. Future Tense Books, $6 paperback.