Black Coffee Night by Emily Schultz (Insomniac), 157 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The path through Black Coffee Night is a treacherous one. Just when you think everything's calm and happy, someone dies or jerks off or switches genders or mentally switches other people's genders. Sometimes it's all of the above.There's not a single straight story in here, except maybe the opening piece about -- surprise! -- a night filled with serving and drinking coffee. But that's just a five-page tone-setter, and what a grim, melancholic tone it sets.
The breathtaking spikes and heart-rending complexities of The Value Of X mean it stands well above the other stories. A small-town girl imagines herself to be a gender-bending superhero with the power to switch boys into girls and vice versa.
She realizes she's queer, and then falls in love with a boy who will let her put crimson lipstick on him when they kiss. They're happy until tragedy strikes and she's forced to re-evaluate everything.
This debut book of short fiction keeps you up at night thinking about the characters' paradoxical strengths and hollowness. They suffer through adolescence in the constant consciousness of being different from the jocks and beauty queens. Fate is accepted and raged against at the same time. People are both sexy and repressed, pained and loving, crude and sweet.
Schultz soaks up facts and interprets them for the reader in a way that makes them a little brighter, harsher and more immediate. There's a very interesting world rattling around inside her head.Write Books at firstname.lastname@example.org.