There are creatures to be found in Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before (2022, Six Gallery Press), Brandon Getz’s debut collection of 12 short stories, and Pittsburgh City Paper’s May Book Club section, but they aren’t the cute and cuddly kind. Contained within are taxidermied rodents, ghosts with tree trunks instead of legs, and evil little witches. From the gorgeous demon on the book’s colorful front cover — illustrated by Pittsburgh artist Lizzee Solomon — to the homunculus crawling out of a bloody head wound on the opening page, readers are immediately introduced to a world where anything can happen. And it does.
Some stories are fantastical and reminiscent of folklore, like the old man who collects severed hands that mysteriously appear on his doorstep, or the chess game between God and the Devil; others, closer to home, like the newspaper editor so desperate for readers, she baits a superhero by kidnapping a bus full of blind nuns for him to rescue.
The entries walk a fine line between fairy tales and horror stories, with many diving into the complexities of interpersonal relationships, both human and not. Within the foolishness is often tenderness, where you finish a tale wishing you could save a depressed robot or make love next to a dead rhino. (Don’t worry, that sentence won’t be quite as weird after you’ve read the book.)
It should be noted that this isn’t a short story collection for children. Getz doesn’t shy from sex, and crude references can be found throughout, from women with “tits like water balloons” to a house spirit making a “jack-off motion” as he mocks a man for masturbating to a sexy picture. Getz’s writing, however, is also whimsical and conversational, making it an inoffensive and easy read, capturing a range of emotions from fear to sadness to rage.
Readers, for example, might find themselves getting mad at the self-made man who shits in a “gold-plated toilet in the shape of a bald eagle with its wings wrapped around the bowl.” Or “The White People,” who are literally white-colored people, with their perfectly symmetrical faces and their immaculate white lives. But Getz’s characters and caricatures winkingly make the reader aware that he’s in on the joke, as though he’s written terrible characters with the intent of exposure.
While the collection may not directly address the flaws of humankind, perhaps there are some morals to be found in these delightfully twisted fables after all.
June #CPBookClub Selection
Be sure to grab a copy of She Gets the Girl at #CPBookClub’s sponsor, Riverstone Books, at shopriverstonebookstore.com, and join the conversation during the June Pittsburgh City Paper Book Club.