Vol. XXXI, #3 Flann O'Brien: Centenary Essays
Review of Contemporary Fiction
Gary Lutz. Divorcer. Calamari Press, 2011. 120 pp. Paper: $13.00.
Gary Lutz, chronicler of unwonderful and morosely moored persons, continues to tickle darkly in Divorcer ("Friends don't let friends stay friends"), which concerns the supreme act of breaking off: “Divorce, I kept forgetting, is not the opposite of marriage; it’s the opposite of wedding.” This collection features four long stories and three shorter, with the titles of the four serving as the perfect settee for his mordant gnosis: “Divorcer,” “To Whom Might I Have Concerned?”, “I Have to Feel Halved,” and “Womanesque.” In each of these stories the unnamed narrator is wounded, balling himself into the bland efficiencies he shares with a flighty, sexually etiolated female (in one case male) This murky and meretricious beloved, who comes from a frumpy family (“This sister’s kids smelled like pets”), soon finds other ne’er-do-wells of more interest than her huddled husband. These stories don’t proceed so much as they grow coral—submerged as they are in the poisoned solvent of aching body odor, unfriendly bodily fluids, and featureless junk food—not arcing but groping themselves underwater before coming up for air at the end. As ever, Lutz’s tinkering with and embellishing of language amazes. Who else could squawk a sentence so startling and of such scale: “The first night ran each of us back to people who had milked us for feeling before.” And yet, Divorcer differs from his earlier collections in that there seems a greater openness here to the pain portrayed, allowing Lutz’s considerable humor to spread more evenly. These narrators aren’t as bewildered by their station in the skuzzy world. They accept more. They know that by going into others they won’t come away conjoined but only again with themselves. What must they do to survive? They must create. [Greg Gerke]