Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review: "My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist" by Mark Leyner

You will have a lot of fun reading Mark Leyner’s My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist, but much like a lot of modern day comedies, those laughs will be well earned but rather disposable. But they are still there, and I’d put a book like this, as dated and as irreverent as it is, up above others in the same genre of short fiction (John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse immediately comes to mind). Leyner’s claim to fame and how I first heard about him was a famous Charlie Rose interview he did with fellow writers Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace. His work fits neatly in with what Wallace produced in his lifetime. The stories here are disparate snapshots of a crazy world that doesn’t make sense, a series of fever dreams come to life and abstract paintings somehow adapted into little vignettes. It is very hard to describe these stories at least on a narrative level, but I will do my best to pick out my favorites when I can. The best things about them have to be the titles, which for someone like myself has a rather goofy sense of humor at times, were fun to read and easily made me chuckle. Titles like “Lines Composed After Inhaling Paint Thinner”, “Enter the Squirrel” “Yoo Hoo! Buzz Called Out. Y’all Got Any Crème de Cacao?” make this collection worth your time, even if you don’t; fully understand the stories themselves, which are filled with hit men who can’t remember if they’ve killed women before, a man who forgets to plug in his mom’s respirator and men who go to a military academy of beauty. It is hard to sustain any kind of interest for stories so weird and scattered, but Leyner can at least make anyone laugh, and at a brisk 150 pages, this book more than does its job successfully.

Rating: 4/5

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