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Kirk Andersen
Surveys and Scams
A book of short stories about the everyday lives of people affected by the political climate of the day.
The austere truth of how inequities and politics permeate American lives is at the heart of this brisk collection of short stories on the mundane lives of people in contemporary America. In the 12 life-drawn stories that, as the title suggests, follow intriguing, unsettling, not-quite-legal situations ranging from Raymond Delosis's fraudulent use of a credit card he found on the way to work in "The Non-Person", to Jasmine's desire to flee and regain his agency from a society that heavily enforces conformity in "Fallout Shelter," to sad secret meetings in the land of temp jobs and Waffle Houses in the sharply titled “The White Supremacists’ League.” Throughout, Andersen zooms in on the themes of deception and survival.

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.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-