by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Short Stories, Dark and Sharp

Edgy, dark, morbid, scathing and, at moments, surreal. These are all apt descriptions of Alix Straus’s new collection The Joy of Funerals: A Novel in Stories (St. Martin’s Press, $12.95). Each story, as the title suggests, deals with death: In one, a young widow who lusts after the men she meets in the cemetery (there is one whose yarmulke she filches); in another a woman’s female lover is murdered by a stranger. Each story also shares a narrative voice that is hip, ironic, and knowing. After the widow burns the photographs of her husband, she “sprinkle[s] my husband onto my bowl of cereal. It looks like charcoal confectioner’s sugar is smothering my Rice Krispies. I add milk, stir and eat.” Another thirty-ish narrator tells herself to approach the evening’s blind date: “with optimistic outlook of a woman awaiting execution.”

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