reviewed by Jennifer Spiegel
Cris Mazza’s 2017 Charlatan: New and Selected Stories reminded me—in this crazy way—of Waiting for Godot. There’s something both spare and dense about it. I’m left a little hungry, but I feel the import too. It’s weighty. Might it be, like Beckett’s work, of great philosophic import? Perhaps existential anguish is replaced here by the quiet dynamics of sexual dogma and human intimacies?
This collection includes short stories from 1979 to 2013. Mazza, a literary force with seventeen books, is escorted here by the likes of Gina Frangello (editor) and Rick Moody (wrote the foreword). I did, indeed, feel hungry—but that’s a good thing. Even when the stories are lengthy, there were often characters without names—characters existing as pronouns, as he or she. Gender-specific. Or existing like this, from “Dog & Girlfriend”:
“She is trained to stay off the bed. Somehow she understands this rule to mean only her back end. She’s perfectly capable of keeping her little feet on the floor and taking a nap with the rest of her body on the bed.”