Someday This Will be Funny, Tillman’s collection of short works, takes us through a myriad of subjects and styles—some with fast-paced quirkiness and economy of language, others with monotone didacticism.It’s amazing that the writer who turned out a multi-layered piece of flash fiction about a woman who hoards unpaid parking tickets in her glove compartment is also the same writer who produced a dull, overly sentimental and philosophical, essay-story-hybrid about mourning doves sitting at her window—unfortunately, the first piece in the collection.

By essay-story-hybrid, I mean a piece of writing that is too self-reflective and lacking in plot, and follows too many of the conventions of a persuasive essay to be called a story, yet has too many traits of a traditional narrative—there is still a beginning, middle, and end—to be called an essay.James Yeh at Gigantic magazine, who recently interviewed Tillman, refers to her piece about doves, “That’s How Wrong My Love Is,” as a “‘thought narrative,’ where very little actual ‘action’ happens and traditional external tension between characters is minimal. . .And yet there’s still the tension of wondering where a burrowing yet well-traced thought will end up. . .”In other words, the piece isn’t a page-turner unless you have already have a serious interest in avian study.We get a play-by-play of everything the birds do, and are periodically bombarded with Tillman’s take on it:Does bird behavior mimic gender roles of humans?Should Tillman regularly feed the shitting and screwing birds at her window?Does it make her a bad person if she doesn’t?

A fellow New Yorker, I too have birds hanging out at my window.They’re annoying and overly-aggressive, as most things in New York are.I don’t coo at them and I don’t leave them food because that would make them come back.Not much else to say.

Apparently, Tillman told Yeh that Lydia Davis encouraged her to write about the doves, telling her she should follow her interests.Tillman’s first instinct, “I didn’t consider it, because a lot of things in my life aren’t. . .I don’t know. . .” was correct.One should only write about one’s interests if his/her interests are interesting.

Although Tillman has weak results attempting to mix forms in “That’s How Wrong My Love Is,” she excels at doing so in “Dear Ollie,” which uses a letter to frame a narrative about a dinner party with graduate and undergrad students in a house on the Hudson.We don’t know if Ollie is real or made up—Tillman never says—but, given the nostalgia she expresses, we suspect it’s someone she dated.The story shows Ollie’s “streak of sadism,” and Tillman’s conflicting emotions about him.She tells Ollie she doesn’t care that he’s written her into his “so-called fictions,” but then, with a tinge of affection about a prank Ollie played on a friend in college.But Tillman is too proud to say she’s hurt, signing the letter, “Whatever, Lynne Tillman.”

Yet another essay-story-hybrid, “Give Us Some Dirt” centers on Clarence Thomas, his inter-racial marriage, his confirmation hearings, and Anita Hill’s charge of sexual harassment, from the close-third-person viewpoint of Thomas, himself.The piece resembles Mary Gaitskill’s “The Astral Plane Nail and Waxing Salon,” which focuses on a fictional encounter between Silda Spitzer and Ashley Dupré in the wake of The Eliot Spitzer sex scandal.In both cases, the blurring of essay and narrative works because we already know the plot.Instead, we can concentrate on a character’s reaction to the plot.Tillman’s Clarence Thomas sees himself a “runaway slave” who was “dragged [ ] down” by a woman for D.C.’s “delectation.”Although Tillman is clearly not a fan of Thomas, she is careful to give us his perspective without making a parody of it.We understand the seriousness of allowing someone so angry to have so much power.

Many of the stories in the collection stories are rich, gourmet chocolates of distilled wit.There were times I had to stop underlining my favorite sentences, because virtually every sentence was my favorite sentence.“Men grew on trees, there were so many of them, they dropped to the ground, and rotted, most of them.”“He thought he hated her, he hoped so, and he strode purposefully out of the tent, to cover so much ground that the tent would disappear, as if it were his bad dream, the wedding, and Grace an aerie faerie, and Billy Webster a devil with a slimy coat, sour, steamy sweat oozing, a tiny, hairy penis, or a mouse where the phallus should have been.”“The mattress looked like an unopened envelope.”“‘I love you’ means I won’t listen to reason.”

Tillman’s best work is driven by clever humor.She needn’t worry about her work being funny someday.It already is.

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Sasha Taublieb teaches English Language Arts and Theatre to little kids and big kids (aka teenagers), in public schools in Manhattan and The Bronx. She has a BA in Theatre (yup, an actor) from Fordham University, an MA in Educational Theatre (She did the double-threat English for grades 7-12 and Theatre for grades K-12 degree/certification.), from NYU, and is near completion of her MFA in Creative Writing at The New School. When she’s not writing or teaching or yelling at people with bad subway etiquette, she thinks about student loans, health insurance, and unions. Sometimes she does all of those things at the same time. Dag. She’s lived in New York City for a long time, but still has mushy feelings about Wegman’s and her hometown, Buffalo, NY.

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