From the Man Booker-nominated David Means comes a new collection of stories delving into fatherhood, marriage, a homeless brother, the nature of addiction, and the death of a friend at the hands of a serial-killer nurse.
... [an] expert collection ... Mr. Means’s pared-back stories attempt to distill memory to its essence so that it recaptures the sensation of immediacy. The best scenes possess a high-definition exactitude that makes them seem like flash photographs of the soul.
The implication is that a linear mode of telling would be insufficient, that such a telling would not only be banal but would risk missing the point. So, in a typical Means story, scrambling narrative time and shifting point of view—basic techniques for any writer—are elevated to higher principles ... A strange thing about Means’s fiction is the way it stimulates skepticism in the reader. I often found myself resisting the stories in Instructions for a Funeral ... Elaborate syntax leaves the end of a sentence, half a page or even a page distant from its start, in a state of queasy grammatical limbo that sends you back picking through stacked clauses (and nested parentheses) looking for verbs, marveling at how he got you from here to there, or shaking your head that he would even try ... The untidiness of his compulsive narrative layering has made him one of the most fascinating and confounding American fiction writers of the past few decades ... The best of them have a mythic quality, the kind achieved by rearranging elements worn to the point of cliché and making them strange once again ... his mastery of tone in each mode is the same.
...affirms his position as one the best story writers of his generation. His sinewy, digressive prose moves seamlessly in and out of dreams, memories, and anticipation, defying time and forming riveting meditations on longing and regret ... As in his previous work, Means’ protagonists have a lot to confess. But what might feel like rambling or ranting reveals an abundance of hope and heartache in the stories people tell themselves in order to survive.