How's this for a gimmick? The Secret Society of Demolition Writers is a collection of short stories by Marc Parent, Aimee Bender, Benjamin Cheever, Michael Connelly, Sebastian Junger, Elizabeth McCracken, Rosie O'Donnell, Chris Offutt, Anna Quindlen, John Burnham, Schwartz, Alice Sebold and Lauren Slater. I read it looking for some more stories by Bender ( so good!), but here's the thing, all the stories are written anonymously. Truthfully, I don't know enough of the authors' work to enjoy the guessing game.
The stories themselves were disappointing. They tended to be very similar in tone, and many felt cut short, or not quite finished. The plot hinged on the last sentence or paragraph too often; in one story that's exciting, in a whole collection, it is annoying. One of the stories that actually finished itself, 'The Safe Man,' was a creepy tale of the dangers of an old-timey job-- safe cracking. 'The Safe Man' has the feel of a slow and angry ghost story, with all the restrictions of that genre, but the characters were well-developed and I enjoyed it despite knowing what was going to happen. I especially liked the idea that safe men write blogs and discuss the folklore of their work online.'Sweet' was a day in the life of a mentally ill homelss man. The author (Rosie O Donnell?), pulled it off well. The details saved it from being preachy or explotative. I could see the main characters mouth moving independent of his brain, just wanting something to eat, but streaming profanity instead
'Wonderland,' the story of undergraduate power-lust and its repercussions hooked me early on. The nasty main character reminded me of some of the souless ladies of Aimee Bender's Willful Creatures , but lacked the nuance. I liked it anyway, but I forgot about it until I went back through the book to write this.
The Secret Society of Demolition Writers questions how much an author's body of work, biography and persona affects how the reader reads her work. For me, the answer seems to be a hell of a lot. Perhaps if the stories in this collection were singular in any way, I'd have spent less time wondering which one Rosie O'Donnell wrote and more time feeling things and going places. I usually read collections by various authors to expand my list of writers read. This book didn't do that. It just left a big hole where the time I spent reading it was.
My reviews are up on Bookslut (click to the right). Enjoy, and read everything else too. I am very happy to be a part of such a smart group.