The Fat Artist and Other Stories
Benjamin Hale's fiction abounds with a love of language and a wild joy for storytelling. In prose alternately stark, lush, and hallucinatory, occasionally nightmarish and often absurd, the seven stories in this collection are suffused with fear and desire, introducing us to a company of indelible characters reeling with love, jealousy, megalomania, and despair.
As in his acclaimed debut novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, the voices in these stories speak from the margins: a dominatrix whose longtime client, a U.S. congressman, drops dead during a tryst in a hotel room; an addict in precarious recovery who lands a job driving a truck full of live squid; a heartbroken performance artist who attempts to eat himself to death as a work of art. From underground radicals hiding in Morocco to an aging hippie in Colorado in the summer before 9/11 to a young drag queen in New York at the cusp of the AIDS crisis, these stories rove freely across time and place, carried by haunting, peculiar narratives, threads in the vast tapestry of American life.
Weaving a pleasure in the absurd with an exploration of the extraordinary variety of the human condition and the sway our most private selves and hidden pasts hold over us, the stories in The Fat Artist reside in the unnerving intersections between life and death, art and ridicule, consumption and creation.
Benjamin Hale writes from an altitude that is entirely his own. The view from up there - a hilariously zoological panorama of Americans at their most frail, feral, and blundering - is also entirely his own. The Fat Artist is a brilliant, ceaselessly engaging book.
From Morocco to Montana, and include the tale of the U.S. congressman who expires during a tryst in a hotel room and the adventures of an addict who lands a job driving a truck full of live squid . . . Dazzling.
Hale reveals himself to be a virtuoso . . . [His] prose is so enjoyable.
Times Literary Supplement