New Story Collections on Life’s Absurdities and Pains

New Story Collections on Life’s Absurdities and Pains

John Gall Books by Izumi Suzuki, Theodore McCombs, Katherine Heiny and Steven Heighton. Credit…John Gall You might think you've read stories like Izumi Suzuki's. They have a punchy, au courant voice and teem with bad feelings living with other people, not to mention living at all. Publishing tends to chase hard-edged youth for the key to our confounding present, but Suzuki (1949-86) sounded like now back then. Her youthfulness is a 20th-century product. In the late 1960s and early '70s, she modeled nude and acted in Japanese sexploitation cinema; during and after a doomed marriage to a saxophone player, she made a name in science- magazines as a punked-up writer, pursuing her ideas to their sublime, almost idiotic limit (a compliment), until her death by suicide at 36. “ Terminal Boredom ,” the dour but hard-to-shake collection that Verso Books published two years ago, was the American introduction to the Suzuki cult. The latest excavation of her archives, HIT PARADE OF TEARS (Verso, 276 pp., paperback, $19.95) , is funnier, more electric and more hit-and-miss. I like it so much better. What does Suzuki push to absurdity? Gender, relationships, family and the meaning of pop culture. The best piece of covert arts criticism I've read in a minute is in this collection, a psychedelic trip in and out of the head of an ersatz garage-rock groupie named Reico (also spelled Reyco and Reiko, depending on how she feels) whose life never seems to belong to her as much as the music does. Is that original? Not totally. But does “Almost Famous” have a scene when the sky opens to reveal giant chopsticks hovering over salmon roe as big as skyscrapers? Suzuki's narratives might contain B-movie silliness. They also have the hypnotic power of a bender. Just look at the time — you've suddenly finished them all. A minor description from Theodore McCombs's inquisitive fantasia URANIANS (Astra House, 210 pp., $25), his debut collection, illuminated the whole book for me. The main character in “Laguna Heights,” frustrated by memory gaps caused by his top-shelf neurotechnology, is called the “sort […]

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