THE SHORT LIST: Sawn Off Tales, Erotik im Fernen Osten oder
Sawn Off Tales
by David Gaffney
Salt Publishing • Now available
While most short story collections contain around ten stories, David Gaffney packs 58 short pieces into his slim volume, Sawn Off Tales. Often witty and always shy of 300 words, Gaffney’s snippets too often seem like Red Skelton jokes; they’re simple and occasionally even clever, but not particularly complicated or enlightening. Remarkably, a very small handful of these pieces seems fully formed. ‘The Lost Language of Hairgrips’ finds a man missing the little trinkets and objects that belonged to his last girlfriend, while in ‘Smells Like’ one man advises his friend not to wear deodorant because “Women are turned on by the real smell of a man. Sour sweat, rotting skin cells.” Sadly, these tender, awkward and honest moments are few and far between. And while Gaffney visits several common themes throughout the collection, the book feels like a series of unconnected story ideas and underdeveloped character sketches.
Erotik im Fernen Osten oder
by Anselm Kiefer
George Braziller • Now available
The art of Anselm Kiefer is a mud-spattered miscellany of dun, brown, and rust, thatched and encrusted with everything from ash and straw to glass and shellac — pretty, it ain’t. So this new collection of previously unseen watercolors will surprise most, and disappoint those looking for more of Kiefer’s somber excavations of Nazi atrocity and German civilian culpability.
These vibrant watercolors, created from snapshots taken during a 1974 trip to the coast of Norway, are dripping with lighthearted violets and blues, and are as expansive and kinetic as his well-known works are claustrophobic and grim: Porphyrious icebergs bleed into coal-black ships foregrounded against deep blue Norwegian skies and white luminescent cliffs. Though they took three years to create, there’s such a vital immediacy to these paintings it feels like they were done on the deck of the ship — all the fierce, bright clarity of a northern winter is captured on the page. The brash force of the seascapes is contrasted with the warmth of the erotic nudes that make up the second half of the book, a series of studies done in oranges and reds that belies the idea Kiefer ever despaired of the human condition. Jonny Diamond