When it comes to snappy, devastating titles, nobody can beat Tibor Fischer. Calling his new collection I Like Being Killed is enough of a provocation to begin with. But once you've gotten past the title page, you're confronted with seven brilliantly dubbed pieces, from "We Ate the Chef" to "Portrait of the Artist as a Foaming Deathmonger" to the peevish "Then They Say You're Drunk." As all this might suggest, Fischer--best known for Under the Frog and The Collector Collector--is a writer of tremendous dexterity, whose prose surges forward with an irrepressible energy. This fluency tends to push him to the very darkest edges of the black-comic spectrum, and occasionally into the realm of jarring callousness.
Take his opening novella, for example. "We Ate the Chef" starts innocuously enough in Cambridge Circus, but somehow spirals into a Cote d'Azur thriller, climaxing in a particularly ungracious (but utterly appropriate) orgasm. In "Then They Say You're Drunk," Fischer, an adopted South Londoner, explores the quite plausible proposition that Brixton "must have more headcases per square inch than any other place in the world." His portrait of "today's guest nutter" is an alarming bit of urban naturalism:
Walking up to the bus stop, Guy reflected that someone with his trousers around his ankles, trying to eat his shirt, wouldn't normally have troubled him much. It was the size of the shirt eater rather than his activity that was perturbing. Six three and big, big, big; they obviously didn't spare the carbohydrates at the bin. What concerned Guy was that if the shirt eater wanted something to wash down his victuals, and mistook Guy for a can of Tennant's and tugged firmly on his pull tab, Guy couldn't do much about it. Not too strong in the empathy department, is he? Still, among the casual (and comedic) cruelty there's more than a hint of seriousness. It was Jean-Paul Sartre, another cheery type, who defined hell as other people. But Fischer's narrator in "Ice Tonight in the Hearts of Young Visitors" has other ideas: "I assure you if there is a hell, it will be the most solitary of confinements and cold." --Alan Stewart