Benjamin Weissman is a clever stylist who slings unconventional metaphors with panache in vignettes that feel like very skilful stoned monologues. This leaves readers of his latest collection of stories in a bit of a pickle. It is precisely his deadpan, absurdist, Disneyland-on-ketamine style that makes him both a kick to read and a bit of a sophomoric bore.
Like a few before him - Mark Leyner comes to mind - Weissman mixes scatological stream of consciousness with witty banter. Accounts of urban life dilemmas are delivered in a loose, painterly fashion - he's also a visual artist.
The 20 short or very short stories in Headless, the follow-up to his cult classic, Dear Dead Person, explore such subjects as the anxious musings of Hitler as he goes skiing, the thoughts of a man changed into a bear, and the psyche of another man who wakes up to discover his true calling is being a serial killer. Weissman also delivers a heartfelt paean to a gay lumberjack, a look into the world's most sitcom-resistant family and the cooings of deeply religious identical twin lingerie models who love the epic Holocaust documentary, Shoah.
The stories that seem closest to his own personal experience are touching and compelling. Marnie, his account of a friend's death, is a stunner. So is his melancholy dissertation on the writer's life as illustrated by a horrible bathroom accident.
Weismann is heavy on the gross-out weirdness in a boyish, David Lynchian way, but much of what he writes is about the oddness and pain of being male. He finds the stuff we've flushed into the nether regions of our heads and heaves it back at us. You forgive the gesture, if only because you recognize the stuff so well and have been there, too.
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