Tuesday, April 15, 2008

you must be this happy to enter

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This book is strange and hilarious. It is as funny and weird as its cover which features an almost obscenely friendly, googly-eyed statuette posed in front of the kind of red curtain that features prominently in Agent Cooper dreams (of TV's "Twin Peaks" fame).

It's an appropriate cover considering that many of the stories in this book actually feel a bit like dreams. Like dreams, they vary widely in terms of mood, tone and subject matter, but there are certain veins that seem to run through them all. The pieces in this collection are absurd, mildly or massively amusing, subtly or not so subtly disquieting, and maybe most important, they are completely unpredictable. Adding still further to the dream-like nature is the fact that celebrities and various objects from popular culture play both major and minor roles throughout these vignettes.

The opening story, "My Life is Awesome! And Great" is a manically positive nine-page rant from a woman who is obsessed with appearing on a reality TV show. She uses an exclamation mark at the end of every single sentence. Warning: The narrator is so bizarre and animated that I nearly choked on my chips from laughter while reading this one on my lunch break.

The story that perhaps wins the best title award is "The Glistening Head of Ricky Ricardo Begs Further Experimentation." In this story, the narrator buys a new TV set and brings it home only to discover that the lid is loose. When she removes the top, she looks down and sees living 9-inch versions of characters from the shows moving around. She then discovers she can actually lift them out of the TV set, change their outfits, throw objects from her world into the TV, and just generally wreak havoc upon and make improvements to TV land. The ways she uses these powers are amusing and quite scandalous.

The closing story, "Promise," is a pledge to the narrator's child, a tender manifesto detailing what the author vows both to do and not to do as a parent. It's sweet - but not syrupy - and somehow manages to express an intense and sincere love in poignant and impressively un-cheesy ways.

Co-published by independent publishers Akashic Books (New York) and Punk Planet Books (Chicago), this a quick and refreshing read. It's laugh-out-loud funny, playfully scandalous and sometimes a bit sad. It's not just the interesting plotlines, but also the way Crane puts sentences together that make her stories such great reads. Crane teaches creative writing at Northwestern University's School of Continuing Studies, the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute.

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