Ben Greenman

A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both [Macadam/Cage]

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Ben Greenman

Sasquatch and Space Sheriff in search of true love

That Bigfoot might be unlucky in love is no oversized surprise, though the manner of love’s loss might be expected to include bellowing australopithecan roars. But no—instead we hear the peevish complaints of an emasculated ape man suffering subtle social slights and losing his true love to a lawyer.

Love sputters out or never quite gets inflated in A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both, a collection of short fiction by New Yorker editor Ben Greenman. Wildly inventive, sometimes surreal, but tenderly told, these stories give a glimpse of what Philip K. Dick might have written if he’d allowed himself a soft, sincere broken heart: forlorn love letters written by an artist on the Moon, chronicling the effects a series of colored pills have on him; a washed-up actor trying to make a comeback as Space Sheriff.

Even in Greenman’s more conventional stories, his characters never quite manage success, but neither are their failures spectacular. They must settle for what one conflicted lover calls the “simulation of passion.” Welcome to the lives of the perpetual not-quite.

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