New book: My Date with Neanderthal Woman, by David Galef ’81 (Dzanc Books)
The author: An English professor and director of the creative writing program at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J., Galef has published more than a dozen books, including the novels Flesh and How to Cope with Suburban Stress (which made Kirkus’ Best 30 Books of 2006 list); two children’s books; another short-story collection, Laugh Track; the poetry collection Flaws; and two poetry chapbooks.
The book: This collection of 33 stories won Dzanc Books’ first short-story collection prize. The title piece — about a man who had “grown tired of modern women” and takes a Neanderthal woman who lives in a cave out on a date — won an online humor contest, was published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward, and was performed by an actor in Los Angeles for an evening of selected shorts, said Galef. Among the other stories are “At the Paradise Club,” about the relationship between a 24-year-old son and his widowed mother who follows him everywhere, and “Hiatus,” about a professor who abruptly leaves the class she’s teaching one day and eventually finds her way back.
Opening lines of the story “Accommodations”: “‘It’s your turn to take Henry shopping,’ I tell my wife when she finally gets home, and she gives me a dirty look.
“‘But I just got back from work.’ Jean steps out of her black pumps with a sensual lift and drops her briefcase by the door. She’s a large woman with a scowl, wearing a black tailored suit. ‘It’s not as if I’ve been painting my nails.’ She works for a software firm called Data.com and regularly arrives on our doorstep at seven in the evening or later. Now it’s seven-thirty, and I’ve been in most of the day.”
Review: Galef’s stories, wrote Publishers Weekly, “test the limits of macabre humor and explore relationships with near-flawless timing. Though familiar conflicts and character types recur — including outsiders braving the rural south and academics in search of meaningful pursuits — Galef enlivens them with original twists. … Galef’s talent thrives in the more realistic, domestic scenarios, many of which expose unsettling flaws in men and women that are both funny and sympathetic.”
Read more: PAW’s story on David Galef ’81 in the Oct. 25, 2006 issue.