People Tell Me Things: Stories by David Finkle
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
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.