Leah's Reviews > The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards by Robert Boswell
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's review
Jan 14, 2011

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bookshelves: short-stories
Read from January 11 to 14, 2011

I must admit, I picked up this book because the title caught my attention. There's something intriguing about The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards. And there's something intriguing about Robert Boswell's stories. They can be quirky, weird, upsetting, funny, or disturbing, but they're all distinct and have strong voices.

There were stories that were better than others, of course, and I actually found myself most disappointed with the story that shares the book's title. I had high expectations for it, but as I made my way through the book, I thought the stories got progressively weaker instead of stronger on the whole. "The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards" came last, and it was my least favorite.

Boswell's talent is clear, and some of the stories are truly enjoyable. It's when the writing is bogged down with gratuitous attempts at shock and awe that the stories become less interesting. Some feel overdone and excessively crass. One girl longs for the father to whom she lost her virginity; another coats her underwear in honey to attract ants as part of an act; a feckless junkie pees in the face of a passed out housemate and throws him in the river. These things are distracting and take away from Boswell's writing more than they add to it. His gift is in creating atmosphere, setting up people in situations and then showing how their minds work. And that gift is what makes the book worth reading.

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