Despite the brevity of this collection, Andersen (The Poetry and Writings of an Outsider) digs deep into a skillfully crafted set of social outcasts—including money-grubbers, pranksters, video game addicts, and menial job workers with financial difficulties—and pits them against political or social scenarios that probe their motives and choices, as well as readers’ reactions and senses of empathy. Through slices of life that actually slice, Andersen projects the anxieties of our turbulent political climate in contemporary America, such as in "Videohead," which mines moral tension from policies like people's easy access to guns. The thrill lies in Andersen's style of letting readers draw their own conclusion.
Andersen highlights the dilemmas and ethical challenges people confront when on the brink of desperation, the perils of isolation, and resonant social injustices, especially those endured by the economically disadvantaged. Thiscollection prompts readers to critically contemplate societal structures, the nature of deception and its ramifications, and the consequences of blind adherence to rules and ideologies. This is a pained but rewarding read for lovers of crisp, methodical stories that catch the raw textures of life while questioning the status quo in the eyes of anti-heroes.
Takeaway: Sharply observed stories of American lives in desperate times.
Comparable Titles: Lauren Groff's Florida, Colin Barrett’s Homesickness.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-