Krok Zero's Reviews > Stories in the Worst Way

Stories in the Worst Way by Gary Lutz
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Jan 18, 10

bookshelves: winter-09-to-10
Read in January, 2010

The line on this guy Lutz is that he writes amazing sentences, which I find to be true--though I'd extend that to say he also writes amazing clusters of sentences, which may or may not assume the form of paragraphs. The counterline is that his stories are pretentious and nonsensical, which I also find to be true, at least part of the time.

Here's the thing: I recommend this book, but you can basically just flip to any random page and start reading sentences. There is an interchangeability not just between the stories but inside them individually. If you read it for traditional satisfactions like character and plot, you will be frustrated. (In fact, "stories" is a comically inappropriate term for whatever this book is.) For some readers, this will be a dealbreaker. Perfectly understandable. But if you love language and want to spend some time in the company of a writer who is basically having crazy tantric sex with language for 160 pages, then open your mind and dive in.

In that spirit, I thought I'd excise a few sentences and sentence clusters from the book, in lieu of the rest of a proper review. I wouldn't know how to begin dancing about Lutz's architecture, so it's best to get a taste for yourself. There's plenty more where these came from:


"One other spot I was in—the last—was the one at whose center I kept getting even worse at judging the distances between people. I fouled up every time. If I saw somebody declaring herself with a gesture, I intercepted as much as I could of whatever was on its way to whom it may have actually concerned. I helped myself to anything headed elsewhere. I carried on as if it were mine."

"Littlenesses, piled high, do not suddenly amount to anything immense."

"She appeared to be in her twenties and had arranged the freckly lengthiness of her body into a slouch that made her elbows and legs seem pointed privately, inquiringly, toward me. I started siding with her, beholding whatever she beheld—the fishbowl ashtray, the dishful of pastilles and drops, the plum-colored splotch she kept rubbing on her shin."

"There was a girl beside him, a tall leg-crosser with a haphazardry of oranged hair. They had notebooks open on their laps and were contentedly, curricularly, sifting through stacks of index cards."

"Nights, I watched her watch the babiness go out of her children. I think she was waiting for them to bleed together into a single, soft-boned disappointment. There were three of them, and they all had the same problems with time—not just with telling it, but with knowing that it had passed, knowing what it separated."

"She was hygienically delinquent. I wondered what my predecessors had made of the ashtrayish, perspiry nimbus she always hazed around herself."

"The kind of reading I was doing involved pushing the words around on the page, trying to bully them into doing what I wanted them to do. What I wanted them to do was tell me what to say when the phone rang at night and the unfamiliar, expectant, undebauched womanly voice of the misdialing caller asked, 'Who is this?'"

"My life was an ambitious program of self-centrifugalization."

"I had to content myself with learning something else, other things, instead. One of them was how, when taking a walk, you had to calculate what the walk was getting taken away from—what was getting subtracted from what. You had to determine what would be left when you got back."

"In the white squares between the black ziggurats of the crossword puzzle, I penciled, in heavy, ham-handed caps untraceable to me: COULD EVERYONE PLEASE BE A LITTLE LESS SPECIFIC? STARTING RIGHT NOW?"
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message 1: by Tabasco (new)

Tabasco This is the most spot-on review I've found here.

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