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The Kind I'm Likely to Get: A Collection
by Ken Foster
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"Battle not with monsters lest you become a monster."A hundred years after Nietzsche first spake it, it's still advice many an auteur and artiste could well remember. Take The Kind I'm Likely to Get, for instance, in which Ken Foster--late of New York's ultra-hip literary salon the KGB Bar--goes on a whirlwind 14-story tour of aimlessness and paralysis. By journey's end, he's met up with every imaginable limbo-bound urban warrior: the actor-turned-junkie in his quest for gritty realism, the bitter-as-espresso-beans barista, the spurned-lover-turned-celebrated-graffiti-artist, etc., etc. The reader stumbles out of the collection a little blurry-eyed him- or herself, looking for some connective thread upon which to remain steady.
But once the daze wears off, a narrative of sorts does rear its head from Foster's bleak nest of spare and jagged prose. The risk he takes, however, is that the reader won't be too numb to care by the time it emerges. Stylistically, he walks a tightrope. At his best, his language conjures up the surreal musicality of his coffeehouse roots ("I remember the dream I had last night. The one about religion. It was all deep colors, air filtered with incense, and cold, cold as stone. It was like a Madonna video without the sex; it was endless"). At its worst, the tone turns from cool to frozen, and his set pieces and characters feel a little shopworn, as if they've been pulled the umpteenth time out of Bret Easton Ellis's bag of tricks. (Do dreadlocked meth-snorters have to be symbolic of ennui and angst? Can't they just remain the tragic things they are and stay out of contemporary fiction?)
There is an admitted allure to dirty urban experiences as a metaphor for life's more overarching trials, but they work best when wrapped around characters you can rest upon, as waiting for Godot, or whomever, can be tiring. --Bob Michaels
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:33 -0400)
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