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A Faker's Dozen

Melvin Jules Bukiet


"Maintaining a subtle distance, I followed, although it took me a few moments to realize that I was following. 'Hey,' I said to myself, 'this is a creepy thing to do. This is what G. Gordon Liddy did.' Then I relaxed and enjoyed my transgression."

Reviewed by Tania Hershman

A good short story is a breath of fresh air; a great short story is a shot of heroin. Anyone who believes that short stories differ from novels only in length has clearly never read a great one. One way to rectify this would be to read A Faker's Dozen: Stories, a collection of 11 gems by Melvin Jules Bukiet. In this, his third short story collection, Bukiet slowly lures the reader into his fictional world, starting near the shadowy border between the real and the ludicrous and then moving firmly into the fantastical by way of the sinister.

The excellent first story, Squeak, Memory, begins innocently enough: the narrator is exploring Manhattan when he spots a figure he believes is Vladimir Nabokov. Naturally, being an admirer, he follows the great man. With what the reader will realise is Bukiet's trademark humor - witty and erudite and many times laugh-out-loud - the narrator stalks Nabokov (or the man he believes is Nabokov) to his hotel room, where several surreal events occur involving shoelaces.

In The Tongue of the Jews, Bukiet gently (and sometimes not so gently) pokes fun at gentiles, Holocaust survivors, writers and brassiere moguls. His central character, Edward Hawkins, is a successful WASP lawyer who becomes obsessed with Jews, abandoning his Park Avenue lifestyle to lecture on Holocaust law and write books about Jews, much to the disgust of his wife Jane. "'Ned's Jews,' she called them."  The twist at the end of the tale, the fork in the tongue, manages to be both shocking and poignant.

Paper Hero is a hysterically disturbing tale of the Salman-Rushdie inspired lengths to which unpublished writers may go to secure the glittering prize: the three-book deal. All writers will recognize themselves in Randall, who slinks around the Frankfurt Book Fair with his manuscript (which shares a title, Strange Fire, with Bukiet's own first novel). There, he stumbles on a "legendary literary agent" and engages him in conversation. Randall's desperation backfires on him, of course, because no-one (or not many people) can engineer a situation which will propel them to instant stardom and draw agents to their door.

Bukiet demonstrates his range with Filophilia, which enters more dangerous, less humorous territory: that of an over-protective mother who does more than smother her son with love. Bukiet's writing is nothing if not innovative: he brings us the traditional professor-student love affair in a new and extremely funny light, Franz Kafka's childhood influences, a Bill-Gatesian computer mogul turned virtual reality monster (But Microsoft, What Byte Through Yonder Window Breaks surely ranks as one of the best story titles of all time), Nobel prize-winners and their dirty secrets, and finally, malevolent giant mechanical rabbits.

This is a stunning collection of stories which should definitely be part of the arsenal used against publishers who believe that the reader is satisfied only by novels. Who wouldn't want a shot of Bukiet's heroin?


Tania Hershman is editor of The Short Review. Tania's first short story collection, The White Road and Other Stories, will be published by Salt Publishing in June 2008.









Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Publication Date: Oct 2003

Paperback/Hardback? Hardback

First collection?: No

Author: Melvin Jules Bukiet is a novelist and literary critic living in New York City. He is the author of a number of novels and short story collections. His works have been translated into a half-dozen languages, and he has won the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, among other prizes. He currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.


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