Wednesday, November 30, 2011

People Tell Me Things: Stories by David Finkle

Title: People Tell Me Things: Stories
Author: David Finkle

Genre: Fiction (Short Stories / New York City / Contemporary / Manhattan / Writers on Writing / Upper Class / Satire)
Publisher/Publication Date: Nthposition Press (10/4/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: Ten stories involving Manhattan artists, elite, and intellectuals.

Do I like the cover?: Eh -- it's a bit comic book-y which doesn't exactly fit the feel of the stories. I imagine something more like the New Yorker would be more appropriate.

I'm reminded of...: Jennifer Belle

First line: "What I'm about to tell you is strictly confidential," my old friend Stanley Konig was saying at the first of two recent lunches we had. From 'Stanley Konig writing as Conrad Stamp'

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for a fluffy escape to Manhattan.

Why did I get this book?: Armchair travel to NYC, and I do love some snotty insider-ness about the art world.

Review: This collection isn't bad; it just isn't great. I described this to a friend as a Sex and the City, featuring a gay man and the arts scene rather than fashion. I suppose that's not a wholly apt comparison, as there's no sex or dating shenanigans; mostly, it's artsy name dropping and the silliness of pretentious Manhattanites. The opening story, 'Hey, that's me up there on the printed page!' is about a man desperate to be memorialized in fiction, poetry, or theater, and he's disappointed at how his opportunity eventually comes. It's an amusing story as I was hot to be a muse while in college and swooning over all the lit majors and their works-in-progress, but the joke gets tiring since we all can see a mile away what's going to happen. (For a fascinating look at a writer who mined her real life and acquaintances for her work, I recommend Wendy and the Lost Boys by Julie Salamon.)

Finkle's stories depend on the reader's knowledge of artists and the art world, and as a result, I think the stories might not resonate if one is unfamiliar with the artist in question (and it's hard to tell when he's name dropping someone real or someone invented). 'Rembrandt paints again' was amusing and funny and probably would work for most readers, while 'Duck! Here comes Diane Arbus!' depends on the reader being familiar with Arbus' work. If not, it just reads a bit oddly.

For a slice of a particular kind of life in New York City, this collection will sate. They're fast, amusing reads, good for commutes or waiting in line when you want something that doesn't require a lot of mental exercise. Certainly, if you want an armchair escape to artsy Manhattan, this is your ticket!

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of People Tell Me Things to one lucky reader. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 12/16.


  1. I'm not a huge short story fan, so a less than glowing review (and that cover is odd--I did not guess it was fiction when I first saw it!) doesn't entice me to try them. Is it me, or have you had a spell of not *loving* a book lately? Hope you find a great one soon!

  2. @Carrie: I've definitely not been wowed by my last few books, sadly -- the most recent swoon-worthy book was the Stephen King I haven't reviewed yet! Shameful, I know.

  3. Everything you described is exactly how I felt!! Not bad, but not great. Sort of strange, and you really have to know who he's referring to though sometimes you don't know if it's a real person or not, lol.

  4. Your reaction to this book seems to be like a lot of other reviewers, and I admit that it's probably not a book that I would really enjoy reading. I think it's a pretty big problem when you can't tell if the characters are real or fictionalized! Thanks for the honesty in this review.

  5. Hmm, sounds like this one wasn't QUITE what you hoped it would be - sorry to hear that. Thanks for your honest review for the tour Audra!