Do you think your life sucks? If so, perhaps you need to pick up a copy of Richard Lange's Dead Boys, collection of short stories filled with characters whose lives are so desolate and hopeless as to make even the most committed pessimist feel like he or she is walking on sunshine.
Lange's stories are built around common themes: addiction, self-destruction, under-achievement, doomed schemes and relationships, "careers" measured in hours or days instead of years or decades, broken things and ruined people. The protagonists' stories are self-revealed, making some of the details of their lives all the more shocking or pitiful.
Nevertheless, I'll give this collection a grudging recommendation, based on the author's skill as a story-teller. Lange's prose is sparse and sharp, with an economy of words that more of us should emulate. You get the feeling that he's spent a great deal of time in the company of folks whose lives form the basis for these stories.
Lange's stories are oddly compelling. His eye for detail is impressive and conversations ring true. And just when you think you've figured out where a particular storyline or character is headed, the author throws in a twist that makes the journey more intriguing, while not significantly altering the final destination; most of these people lead lives for which the outcome was determined years before, by their choices or by fate, however you want to look at it.
Note: This book deals with "adult themes" using "adult language." It's not for children. A review copy was provided to me by the Hatchette Book Group, USA. You can read the publisher's promotional write-up here.