Monday, January 24, 2011

I Looked Alive, Gary Lutz (2003)

To review Gary Lutz, for me, is impossible. Lutz is the master of the short story. But, not in the way O'Henry is considered a master. Not quite in the way Lydia Davis is a master. And, certainly not in the way Joy Williams is a master. All these short story writers are original, creative, intelligent. But, they tend to fall in line with what a reader expects from a short story. A beginning, a middle, an end. Not to say they're formulaic in content, just in style. Gary Lutz has created his own ideas of a short story. They are not to be read by just anyone.

Lutz believes in language. Language comes first in all of his stories. The vocabulary can be overwhelming. Humorous. Over the top. Too difficult to pronounce in your head, or out loud. Lutz is a mad scientist when it comes to language. The sentences are Frankenstein's monster. Pure beauty turned into twisted truths about gender, sex, and the darkest aspect of human connection.

Lutz, in an interview, once said "the body is a novel." This is so true for Lutz's fiction. The characters are all trying to crawl out of their own body and into the body of another. But, the body is where the stories are contained. Where the truths are hiding. Often times dorment for far too long.

Reviewing the content of a Gary Lutz story is what becomes tricky. At times, a character is described for two pages and it is over. Or, the character tries to explain themselves and their actions, but we're never fully certain of what we're trying to be convinced of. Or why it matters. In fact, I don't think the characters care. And, I'm pretty sure Lutz doesn't care. These aren't plot driven stories. These are stories driven by single characters- the words. One will never find a more beautiful description of some of the ugliest things (ie, a pubic hair on a toilet seat) than in a Lutz short story.

I Looked Alive, originally released in 2003, was out of print for many years. When I first was told of Lutz, it was difficult to get my fingers on his fiction. I had to wait a few weeks for the two collections to be sent to the library. But, having discovered a re-print of Lutz's I Looked Alive in 2010 caused me to look through the stories once again. I will certainly be picking up my copy as soon as possible. I'd hate to see these stories go missing for another handful of years.


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