My Date With Neanderthal Woman
David Galef’s stories, whether longer or as tiny one-page wonders, can contain both humor and fear. In this work the ordinary slips easily into the allegorical, into the dream and sometimes into the nightmare, often leaving the reader with moments of narrative that will stick like a sharp-edged image from a memorable poem or painting. Galef’s vision blossoms in a twenty-first century America, but its roots stretch back to the terror behind the oldest folk legends.
Winner of the first Dzanc Short Story Collection Contest, Galef (Flesh) presents 33 stories that often test the limits of macabre humor and explore relationships with near-flawless timing. Though familiar conflicts and character types recur—including outsiders braving the rural south and academics in search of meaningful pursuits—Galef enlivens them with original twists. Noteworthy selections include “The Perfect Couple,” the story of a morbid partnership cemented by a spirit of one-upmanship in terms of “who [suffers] more and how”; “Breakfast of Champions,” featuring a young narrator who watches his father’s attempt to remake himself in widowhood; “Natasha,” a clever portrait of industriousness and the aftermath of a biting remark; and “Accommodations,” a moving, if sometimes cruel, account of parenting in mid-life and marital stasis. A handful of stories venture into the outlandish with slightly less depth, broaching topics such as a slave-owning woman and the titular date with a Neanderthal woman. Galef’s talent thrives in the more realistic, domestic scenarios, many of which expose unsettling flaws in men and women that are both funny and sympathetic, but the wilder stories still entertain. Highly recommended for flash fiction enthusiasts.