David Gilbert and Karl Roeseler, eds. Here Lies.
David Gilbert and Karl Roeseler, eds. Here Lies. Trip Street, 2001.
248 pp. Paper: $13.00.
The best anthologies these days center around a theme, whether it
be private eyes, erotica, or war. True to its title, Here Lies presents
stories that contain a lie or a character who is a liar. It "raises
the question," the editors tell us, "of what is and what is
not a lie." What follows is an eclectic--for want of a better
word--compilation from familiar names such as Gilbert Sorrentino and
Lydia Davis to notable newcomers like Deborah Levy and ZZ Packer.
I'd never heard of Packer before picking up this anthology, but
I'll be sure to seek out the author's debut collection from
Riverhead. Packer's "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" deals
with young lesbians in college and the denial of sexuality, and reads so
smooth and sharp the perfection hurts. The same can be said of Lewis
Warsh's "The Russians," a story that draws you so deeply
into its world of Russian immigrants, love, incest, and desperation,
that you'll have a difficult time leaving it. To say that "The
Russians" is haunting doesn't do this gem of fiction justice.
There's plenty of humor in Here Lies. George Saunders's
"I Can Speak![TM]" is a letter written by a sales rep to a
dissatisfied customer who has returned a talking baby mask. Despite all
the technical research the rep uses as justification for the product, in
the end all he wants is not to lose his commission. One of the best
surprises in this collection, and hilarious on its own weird level, is
Mac Wellman's "Muazzez." Those familiar with
Wellman's plays and the "alien" elements in them will
appreciate this iconoclast's view of the world. There are many
anthologies out there, and most of them fade away as quickly as they
appear. Here Lies rises above the foam and should last.