Kissing in Manhattanby David Schickler
Dial, 274 pp., $21.95
David Schickler's Manhattan is a defamiliarized black magic kingdom overrun with lunatics and losers, people waiting for love and people just waiting to die. Patrick Rigg is its king. A Wall Street trader and lapsed Catholic whose prepubescent trauma leads to an adulthood of gun-toting and sexless bondage rituals, Rigg is as close to a main character as we get during Schickler's novel-in-stories. He lives in the opulent Preemption apartments with James Branch, a "sleepy-eyed" accountant who falls almost fatally in love with Rally McWilliams, the teacher's pet of Rigg's rotating roster of submissives, in "Telling It All to Otis" (Otis being a mystical antique elevator and another element of Kissing in Manhattan's pastiche of such contemporary works as The Intuitionist and American Psycho). Other Preemption residents and Rigg acquaintances include Hannah Glorybrook, the vengeful heroine of "Serendipity," and Nicole Bowen, the icy high school prodigy with a parentally endorsed crush on a lonely teacher in "The Smoker," which debuted in The New Yorker last year. None of Schickler's disturbingly comic yet simply rendered grownup bedtime stories quite matches "The Smoker" and its warped Chekovian charm, but there are certainly echoes spinning and bouncing throughout.