A friend and I once joked about the eponymous adjectives that would describe our work once we had become famous writers. As the inheritor of a terminal vowel, I would find my options somewhat limited, but hers were wide open. Would she take the -ic suffix, as in Miltonic, the -ian as in Woolfian, or reliable old -esque? Years on from such nonsense, I am here to tell you that Garielle Lutz deserves not just an adjective but an adverb too. Her stories can pick up even the most exhausted discard of language—an adverb, say—and somehow, miraculously, Lutzily, startle me with it. Worsted is the latest collection in a body of work that includes the excellent (and excellently titled) Stories in the Worst Way and Partial List of People to Bleach. The title story might be read as a series of abortive attempts to explain a life. As with all Lutz’s writing, it hits me at the level of word-choice, the level of sound and rhythm, the level of what Lutz herself calls ‘intra-sentence intimacy’. Take the line: ‘The closest city had a sorrily statued traffic circle just barely in the glare. At a lunch counter we each ate a frankfurter served in a sheet of folded bread instead of a roll.’ It’s so rich with alliteration, rhyme and subtle half-rhyme (‘lunch counter’ and ‘frankfurter’, for crying out loud! The quiet little ‘shh’ at the end of ‘each’ being shunted forward to create ‘sheet’!) that it demands to be reread straight away, chewed over, considered. I think that push towards rereading is why Lutz’s language doesn’t come across, to me, as mere literary conjuring. The sentences contain their own drama, but they always remain in the service of the stories’ key qualities: deep humour and deep sadness.
First published in the South Carolina Review and available to read there online. Collected in Worsted, Short Flight/Long Drive Books, 2021