The story "To Whom Might I Have Concerned" is a prime example of the classic Lutz style (sample sentence: "After college: an unenduring, stopgap marriage {he was overhumanized, always prompt in returning any reasonable farewell crackle of affection}, then employment, and co-workers, mostly women my own life-poisoning age, mostly Kristens or Kirstens or Kirsties: the shouts of violet in their eyeshadow, their moody maneuverings between men."). It's like Lutz has turned the volume on his style up to 11 in this collection. The whole book is like guitar amps catching on fire, like stereo speakers getting blown out, over and over. The sentences are so carefully crazed, so acrobatic, I can almost see Lutz, crouched over his keyboard, revising and revising, with a devilish grin (if you can imagine this shy author smiling at all).

The result is a suite of narratives that are as refreshingly funny as they are emotionally eviscerating. Linked by themes of broken relationships and mistrustful lovers, Lutz's newest stories are full of descriptions and observations so bitter and dark that they're hilariously charred.

One of my favorite moments in the book comes (in the title story) when a tax man starts saying things like, "Do you always talk like you have a shade drawn down over your voice?" and "So, Mister Man, what would be a very nice last straw?" Some readers might raise a red flag and say you're not supposed to make your characters speak in the same refined style of the narration, but to me it felt more like a magic trick than a pretension. I laughed out loud, surprised and aghast.

*some of this review was used as the intro for my mini-interview with Lutz at the Rumpus. Read that here: http://therumpus.net/2011/09/the-rump...

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