On Charles Baxter’s recommendation, I checked out Eric Puchner‘s first book of short stories, MUSIC THROUGH THE FLOOR. The book really knocked me out. The stories are funny and sad and painted with honest details. There’s nothing close to a dud in the batch. From the NYTimes review:
Some of Puchner’s stories are laugh-aloud funny. In “A Fear of Invisible Tribes,” a carful of driver’s ed students is hijacked while their instructor is paying for gas at a minimart. The robber demands they drive him away but of course they can’t; they don’t know how to drive. One student (named Green Boy for his dyed hair) suggests that the robber let them out and drive himself. “I don’t drive stick,” he replies. “It’s an honest mistake,” says Green Boy. “Anyone could make it. How were you supposed to know?” But another student butts in: “Actually, there’s a big sign on the back? Like in yellow? Caution: Student Driver?” What’s wonderful is how this comedic story slowly evolves into a subtle tragedy, with its heroine – a nervous adult in the class – so frightened of the world she ends up squandering the possibility of intimacy offered by the fellow student who ends up saving her life.
Puchner is a former Stegner fellow, lives in San Francisco, and teaches at Stanford. Read exerpts from “Children of God” and “Animals Here Below” from the Zoetrope website, then go out and get his book.