Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead: Stories Paperback – Jul 1 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
A commitment to experimental structure and oddball elements provides this debut collection's consistency, but they often devolve into a kind of self-conscious blandness that blunts the stories' impact. In "The Caliber," a high school girl's fantasy-turned-comic-nightmare about her lost uncle and a shadowy federal agent provides the structure for a complex tale where layered foreshadowing threatens to thicken to pudding. The darkly humorous allegorical experience of married archeologists largely consists of the narrator's wife digging a hole in their living room in "The Excavation." In "Quiver," a Wal-Mart employee stumbles into a group of medieval time travelers (by virtue of a contact through her ex-husband, a monster truck driver) and thwarts their destructive plan; this story rocks along with an amusing gait and an attractive tongue-in-cheek tone. The best of these 16 stories are arresting; weaker pieces—often very short ones—seem more exercise than serious compositions. (The most clever piece, "The Exchanges," is also the worst story.) But the collection argues for DeNiro as a writer to watch and bodes well for further non-self-published releases from Kelly Link's Small Beer Press. (July 1)
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Maybe the future of sf is Alan DeNiro. The title story here, set in twenty-third-century Pennsylvania, is its nameless-till-the-last--sentence narrator's university-application essay, numbered footnotes and all, which explains why not to expect him on campus anytime soon; he is in love and considering getting gills. Maybe DeNiro is the future of alternate history: in "Our Byzantium," a college town is invaded by horse-and-chariot-led soldiers who demolish cars, wheelchairs, and other machines; reestablish Greek as the lingua franca; and otherwise conquer. He could be fantasy's tomorrow, too, if the offhandedness of the impossible transformations in "The Cuttlefish," "The Centaur," "The Excavation," and "If I Leap" catches on. In "The Fourth" and "A Keeper," DeNiro is one of the most powerful, least partisan prophets of consumerist totalitarianism. "Salting the Map" confounds the distinction between artifice and reality as deftly and daftly as Andrew Crumey's Pfitz (1997) and Zoran Zivkovic's Impossible Stories (2006). The long closer, "Home of the," about Erie, Pennsylvania, now and then, is as laconic and associative as its title is elliptic. Refreshing, imaginative, funny-scary stuff. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What I like best about this collection is how DeNiro takes ordinary every day settings and twists it just enough that an average everyday person is caught up in the middle of something extraordinary. In "Salting the Map" a guy gets a job for a map making company and is asked to salt the maps with fictitious cities and this act of salting is an act of creation. "Our Byzantium" has the Byzantium empire invading modern day America. "Fuming Woman" has a circus performer with real power. "Child Assassin" is set in today's world with a hired assassin who kills people's babies. What if a family of giants move in next door? "The Friendly Giants" addresses this.
All of DeNiro's stories have this sense of the quirky and there is far more pleasure in reading something out of the ordinary than there is in the high literary style of Jeffrey Ford (not that Ford does not have merit). Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead was published in 2006 and hopefully DeNiro has a second collection brewing because it will be my most anticipated collection of the year for whichever year it is announced.