Do Not Be a Gentleman When You Say Goodnight by Mitch Sisskind
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Admired by Donald Barthelme and Lydia Davis, Mitch Sisskind is a professional satirist whose stories and poems can finally be read in one new volume. Do Not Be a Gentleman When You Say Goodnight, a selection from the last five decades, includes an introduction from poet Amy Gerstler, who calls Sisskind “a postmodern master of the anti-epiphany,” and an afterword by David Lehman. Bestowed with outlandish names, Sisskind’s characters make up a cast of failures for whom grace is absent. The hilarity and sadness of many of their surprising situations have the ability to startle readers until, as in his imagined filmography of Tokyo Liscomb, “all hell breaks loose.” The divine is often called upon and sometimes shows up but never in expected ways, since Sisskind, gifted with originality, unsettles all we thought we knew about this world and the next.
“Mitch Sisskind’s Do Not Be a Gentleman… opens the door to a world of another time, in an unusual mix of stories and poems, of solid realism and weird fantasy and wit, combining steamy sex and nostalgia, the Mickey Mouse Club and Talmudic scholarship. Sisskind gives us an unapologetically and un-politically-correct male world, but a quirky and appealing one, a world of old guys with funny names like Steve Tomato and Hub Snell—maybe you knew them? My favorite is “Twenty Questions”: a dead father, sitting in a magic chair, speaks to his son for a while about his life, and in this story, speaking from beyond the grave seems as natural as breathing, and the voice, talking about how he used to dress or eat or conduct business, completely alive.” Lydia Davis
“Donald Barthelme told me, early on, that Mitch Sisskind is the funniest living writer in America—and when I read “A Mean Teacher,” I was convinced. This collection renders me helpless with laughter and admiration. Man, is he oblique or what?” Michael Silverblatt
Mitch Sisskind grew up in Chicago, attended Columbia University, and now lives in Los Angeles. Two books of his short fiction have been published: Visitations (1984) and Dog Man Stories (1993.) His poems were included in The Best American Poetry anthologies for 2009 and 2013.