Though David Galef is best known for his novels Flesh and Turning Japanese, he has also published over sixty short stories in magazines spanning the British Punch to the Czech Prague Revue, the Canadian Prism International, and the American Shenandoah.
The fifteen stories selected for Laugh Track are an eclectic mix, from a haunting vignette called “You,” about a seminal day in the life of the narrator, to “Triptych,” the tale of an elementary school teacher whose men in her life include a precocious third-grader.
In the title story, a failed comedian brings a recorded laugh track in to his regular Wednesday psychoanalytic session. During the sometimes tortuous, often hilarious course of treatment, he finally succeeds in displacing his blocked impulses—to the extreme discomfort of his therapist.
In “Metafiction,” a frustrated creative writing teacher finds that art begins to imitate life all too closely.
In “All Cretans,” a lovelorn tourist in Greece gets ensnared in a set of ancient philosophical paradoxes.
In “The Web of Möbius,” what’s left of a psychotic’s life revolves in a bizarrely twisted circle.
Laugh Track offers fifteen different worlds—from a blocked expatriate author in Mexico, to a drug heist gone wrong in downtown Manhattan, to a love affair pursued at the last leper colony in the United States.
These are stories that flirt with the veil of fantasy and yet in the end reveal the all-too-vulnerable side of humanity. Like so many people, Galef’s characters are searching for something in life that will solve everything—but the results are unpredictable, to say the least.
Praise & Reviews
In his new collection of stories, David Galef captures, with a combination of sympathy and good humor, the stubborn anxieties of various writerly types…. The stories in Laugh Track are most affecting when they illustrate not only the pretensions but the comic awkwardness and the sheer uneasiness of the creative life.
—The New York Times Book Review
David Galef’s stories are subtly, unpretentiously crafted, and in the end mysteriously captivating. Laugh Track is a collection remarkable both for its quiet wit and for the refreshingly wide variety of stories it includes.
—Madison Smartt Bell
Fifteen far-ranging and idiosyncratic glimpses of life most often from a dark, quixotic psychosocial perspective make up this collection, selected from more than 60 published stories by Galef (Turning Japanese, Flesh)…fans of literary fiction will be won over by Galef’s ironic and enigmatic sensibility.
In this witty collection of short stories, Galef introduces the reader to a host of eccentric and endearing characters caught in the off moments of their lives…. Yet Galef injects so much humor and goodwill into his characters that their humanity always shines through.
Laugh Track is an ingenious collection, its stories as wide-ranging as the forms that contain them. Galef keeps his surfaces smooth, elegant, and witty, but underneath lie tension, mystery, surprise.
But if you’re struggling to get fired up about the old masters (Carver, Cheever, and friends), your best bet for new work is David Galef’s Laugh Track. Galef, best known for his novel Turning Japanese, loves to play with language and form, and this collection is a finely crafted fifteen-ring circus of likably unusual characters, off-kilter worlds, and experiments that are clever without being precious or pretentious…. If you’re a fan of the inventive, irreverent fiction of Jonathan Lethem and Aimee Bender, Laugh Track is fairly close to essential reading.
—The Ruminator Review
If the old idea about the brain is true, if one hemisphere does control logic and the other emotion, then David Galef, an associate professor of English at the University of Mississippi, writes from both sides of his mass of gray matter. The 15 stories in Laugh Track, his first collection of short stories, are simultaneously intelligent and imaginative, cerebral yet creative and mostly character-driven in equally fierce measure. Culling from every stage of Galef’s 20-year career—which includes two novels, two children’s books, two translations from the Japanese and scores of critical articles—this admirably diverse book showcases a variety of subjects, settings, voices and ideas, from academia to asylums, gangsters to jurors, lepers to lovers, Freud to Walter Benjamin.
—The Commercial Appeal