Synopses & Reviews
Bette wore what I had come to secretly call her Star Trek uniform, a hideous white suit jacket with too-pointy collars. From her face hung a beard of bees. Everyone's seen these things on TV or in National Geographic. Some farmer standing shirtless in his field, a stalactite of writhing insects dangling from his grinning face. But on Bette, though. Our account manager for digital media. I wasn't even aware she raised bees.
Welcome to the world of Ryan Boudinot, where a little boy who innocently dresses up as Hitler for Halloween suffers the consequences. ("The Littlest Hitler"); a world where a typical office romance is destroyed by the female half's habit of coming to work covered in live bees ("Bee Beard"); where jacked-up salesmen go on murderous, Burgess-like rampages ("The Sales Team"); and the children of the future are required to kill off their parents preferably with an ice pick in order to be accepted to the college of their choice ("Civilization"). You may never want to leave.
In each of these fearless, hilarious, and tightly crafted stories, Boudinot's voice rings with a clarity rarely seen in a debut collection. He speaks to a generation that has tried to seem disaffected but can't help wishing for a better world. His characters shake their heads over the same messes they're busily creating, or lash out angrily at a sex-and-violence-saturated culture. But they can never entirely lose their sense of fun, however perverse it may be.
"Boudinot proves himself a twisted, formidable storyteller in his dark and surefooted debut. In the title story, fourth-grader Davy, with his father's assistance, dresses up as Hitler for Halloween ('I had gotten the idea after watching World War II week on PBS'), but realizes his terrible judgment after an encounter with a classmate dressed as Anne Frank. 'On Sex and Relationships' brims with irony as two yuppie couples get together for dinner; the evening is banal enough board games, nostalgic chitchat but festering rivalries, buried secrets and bitterness color the evening and threaten to sink the narrator's relationship with his girlfriend. In 'Civilization,' teens of the future receive 'duty papers' when it's time to kill their parents, so as to be accepted into college. Despite his parents' encouragement to kill them ('Don't let your nerves get to you!' reads a Post-it his father sticks to the refrigerator), narrator Craig has his reservations. Reminiscent of early Rick Moody or the short stories of Daniel Handler, each of Boudinot's 13 stories is a microcosm of weirdness imbued with imagination and maniacal wit. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Ryan Boudinot is some kind of new and dangerous cross between Vonnegut and Barthelme." Dave Eggers
"The funniest, most engaging, and original new voice I've read in a long time. Boudinot's stories are a joy." Stephen Elliot
"When Boudinot writes shtick, he's tiresome. When he writes fully developed stories, he's abrasive, thought-provoking and explosively funny." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Ryan Boudinot received an M.F.A. from Bennington College, where he studied with Rick Moody and Amy Hempel. His work has appeared in McSweeney's, Black Book, nerve.com, and The Best American Non-Required Reading 2003 and 2005. In 2004 he was named one of The Stranger's "Writers to Watch" in their annual Genius Awards issue. He lives in Seattle, where he works at Amazon.com as an editor on the Media team. He is thirty-three years old.