In his extraordinary debut collection, Pure Slaughter Value, Robert Bingham tracks the conscience of a generation that grew up educated, privileged, and starved for meaning. Bingham's strange sense of morbid fancy collides with a gutsy realism; the result is splendid wreckage: a young man is seduced by his first cousin (or maybe it's the other way around) at her brother's wake ("The Other Family"); a bored couple plot to kill a man during their ski-resort honeymoon ("Marriage Is Murder"); a yuppie banker risks his whole perfect life for an affair with a junkie ("The Fixers"); an insurance-company bounty hunter tracks down walkaways from drug and alcohol rehab ("Preexisting Condition"); and in the title story, an eleven-year-old boy is caught at the exquisitely uneasy intersection of the safety of childhood play and the pain of grown-up love and longing.
These lean, potent stories are utterly original, and yet by turns recall Salinger, in their intellectual acuity, emotional depth, and wicked, dark humor; Fitzgerald, in their vivid chronicling of a new, restless social elite; and the work of "transgressive" writers, in their pervasive sense of the imminent possibility of danger and violence, even in the most civilized surroundings. Above all, the stories in Pure Slaughter Value mark the debut of a striking new literary voice--unsparing, bold, ironic, and true--that will haunt us for a long time to come.
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Published July 14, 1997
Literature & Fiction.