Review (sort of): Tabloid Dreams by Robert Olen Butler
By the standard set by his previous short-stories collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Butler's Tabloid Dreams is so-so, but still arguably very good. Butler reconstructs the stories behind the tabloid headlines. The book is so readable (with a generous use of the comma splice) I finished it in no time.
There's the story about the nine-year-old boy assassin whose fingers barely reach the trigger of his gun, but was efficient in taking down targets for a hundred dollars. The boy got pissed off when his boss refused to give him ten thousand dollars to buy his mama new fancy clothes (he had enough of seeing her walking in her slip in their house.) In Woman Loses Cookie Bake-off, Sets Self on Fire, a wife whose husband has recently died joined a baking contest and, suddenly struck by the thought that all her life she was baking those fancy cookies her husband loved, decided in a moment of rebellion, to dump her Peanut Butter Bouquets and bake simple CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (in bold letters) instead. She lost the contest, needless to say, and while her best friend was being announced the winner, she set herself on fire. In Doomsday Meteor is Coming, a guy, convinced that a meteor is fast approaching to kill all life on earth, decided to yield to the request of his girlfriend to have their nipples pierced.
The best story, I think, was the last: the story of a proud suffragette in the Titanic who chose to die reading Edith Wharton in her room rather than save herself from the sinking ship, but one man asked him to board a boat ("I told him I did not know why I should live and he said 'Because I ask you to.'")and she did, and she hated the thought that she was saved because of her sex.
Three of the stories in Tabloid Dreams are available online: WOMAN STRUCK BY CAR TURNS INTO NYMPHOMANIAC, WOMAN USES GLASS EYE TO SPY ON PHILANDERING HUSBAND, JEALOUS HUSBAND RETURNS IN FORM OF PARROT.