Raphael Bob-Waksberg roller coaster debut novel - GulfToday

Raphael Bob-Waksberg roller coaster debut novel

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"Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory" by Raphael Bob-Waksberg. TNS

Raphael Bob-Waksberg debut novel, "Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory," is a collection of short stories, with different themes. From tragic-comic briefs to horror, Bob-Waksberg left nothing untouched.

Some stories, like “Lunch With the Person Who Dumped You” and the bulleted “Lies We Told Each Other (a partial list),” are tragi-comic briefs threaded with biting details that leave a mark, like a flicked jab in a boxing match. The punch hits hardest in “Move Across the Country,” which finds a rushed narrator fleeing their stubborn companion “the Sadness” only to discover its return just as a new life has begun. “When the Sadness smirks at you and says with a wry insistence that unravels you in an instant, ‘This is the real love story here, buddy, you and me,’” Bob-Waksberg writes, and in a few short pages the story transitions to horror.

Longer stories, like the more elaborately drawn presidential theme park imagined in the first-person narrative of “More of the You That You Already Are,” conjure struggles for connection in grimly surreal alternative realities that recall the probing comic imaginings of George Saunders.

Bob-Waksberg’s piece “A Most Blessed and Auspicious Occasion” rises from the many odd traditions one encounters in wedding planning to imagine a couple’s negotiating how best to satisfy friends, family and their budget in a pagan reality where Shrieking Choruses, Promise Eggs and goat sacrifices exist alongside Rite Aid. It’s an extension of the comic rule of following the absurd to its most extreme, and Bob-Waksberg follows it beautifully.

The book proves Bob-Waksberg can conjure many modern miseries beyond those of a talking horse, but not all his ventures pay off so well. “Up-and-Comers” struggles under the weight of combining a superhero origin story with a sort of “Behind the Music” document of young rock decadence, and “The Average of All Possible Things” fails to find much exceptional after establishing the middle-of-the-road nature of its central character, a lawyer rebounding from a bad office affair.

“You find yourself applauding for this broad burlesque puppet show of your life, as if you really found the whole thing to be a marvelous endeavor,” writes Bob-Waksberg, a playwright himself. “You will think about this night a lot in the months ahead, and the one thing you will ask yourself over and over is: Why did you clap?”

Sometimes, whether onstage or on the page, after seeing something you recognize with all its sadness and imperfections, that’s all you can do.

Tribune News service