The Peculiar State
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
The author, Patricio Pron--an Argentinian writer, transplanted to Spain--was unfamiliar to me. The series--A Vintage Short--instead, appealed: the promise of a classic short story. I reviewed one earlier, which disappointed. This one did not.
Towards the end, the unnamed protagonist is a German author, who writes a to-do list:
"1. Give up writing. Think about the death of the novel and the peculiar state of the short story....
"3. Go days without changing your shirt.
"4. Say 'You wouldn't understand' when she asks you why you don't write anymore."This excerpt gives a sense of the story in theme, humor, chaos, and story (although #7 is the best and #10 contradicts previous assertions). The humor recalls Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
The German and his wife live in Altoona. He makes his living as a creative consultant, answering cryptic phone calls about chocolate. The results of his opinions dismay him when he spies them on billboards.
As you read, you learn "the peculiar state of the short story" is really the peculiar state of society--a mirror of the strange world the protagonist lives in but doesn't comprehend. It's the kind of taster that makes you salivate for more peculiar stories and their peculiar societies.