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Books

Book Review

‘If a Stranger Approaches’ by Laura Kasischke

In Laura Kasischke’s feverish short story “Melody,” a man on the brink of divorce attends his daughter’s birthday party, where he wrestles down an onslaught of belligerently antisocial thoughts and impulses of the kind usually associated with that discreet euphemism anger-management issues.

In the lava spill of rage incurred by his wife’s rejection, thoughts and memories swirl in the husband’s mind just begging for a violent response: her sexual desirability, her absence of malice, the strategic self-preservation of a woman who, as a schoolgirl, would deliberately get herself knocked out of a game of Scramble so she could sit it out in peace. “This had amazed him,” writes Kasischke in a pointed metaphor for their dissolving relationship, “the idea that someone (even a girl!) would so willfully and cannily buck the system by choosing failure over injury.”

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