BEDTIME STORIES

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In his debut short story collection, Gerlitz expertly walks a line between absurdity and reality, as in a tale of a man who enters a beard growing contest but keeps shaving: “After I got done shaving this morning, I became depressed about how little my beard has grown in.” In another story, a man sends a note to his upcoming first date that he will be wearing a dog cone around his head due to unforeseen events. An old man reflects on his long and eventful life in which he was an airplane, a shark, and a baseball helmet in “Reflections,” and a pillow talks to the man who sleeps on it every night in “Pillow Talk.” It could be argued that comedy and horror have always been mirror images of each other, and Gerlitz often successfully uses the inherent ridiculousness of his situations to bring out their wit. However, in a few cases, the grotesque situations might have worked better as straightforward horror, as when a woman cuts off her leg to lose 20 pounds or a veterinarian cuts off a cat’s leg to distract it from a cold. Another story, about a man’s thoughts before his plane crashes, counts down the number of feet before his impending demise, which ends up feeling more stressful than anything else. The most effective stories reveal intriguing aspects of mundane situations by employing hyperbole. For example, trying to remember a password can be frustrating, but it becomes hilarious in a story in which a character supplies longer and longer stories with each password attempt.

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