“We Love Anderson Cooper,” a debut short story collection by the Queens-born R.L. Maizes, has a few intriguing and promising entries, but ultimately doesn’t have much impact.
The subject matter is well worn. Characters cling destructively to loved ones who have died; they abandon marriages that have gone bad (often without expressing much emotion), and they fret internally about the behavior of their partners while refusing to have a conversation about the problem. And there are lots of pets: cats, dogs and even a bird.
The title story should feel current since it concerns a boy deciding to come out to his parents (and everyone else) at his bar mitzvah. But it comes off as almost old-fashioned, like something from an ’80s film, albeit the hope that the moment will generate a viral video.
More interesting are those stories that concern the supernatural, including “ A Cat Called Grievous” and “Yiddish Lessons.”
“Tattoo,” which feels like the most mature entry, also falls into this category. It tracks a traditional artist-turned-tattoo-artist’s goal — which he perhaps achieves to some degree — of healing or improving his customers, not just inking them.
Like seemingly every collection these days, most of these stories (eight out of 11 in this case) have already been published, online or in print, in various journals. This is not necessarily a problem, but it can become one when authors or publishers reach too far into the past for material. Two particularly old stories here (“Couch” from 2010 and “L’Chaim” from 2012) could have been omitted without readers missing out on anything.
Overall, this feels a bit like watching Maizes still trying to find her voice. Her first novel, which is due out next year, will hopefully more closely resemble her edgier work here.