Kalfus, Ken. “Coup de Foudre”, Bloomsbury USA, 2015.
Looking at the News
Ken Kalfus’ new collection of short stories and a novella are fascinating literary fiction and invention. The novella entitled “Coup de Foudre” appeared recently in “Harper’s” is about David Leon Landau, a the president of an international lending institution and accused of sexually assaulting a housekeeper in a New York hotel. This obviously sounds familiar but Kalfus’ version of the story is quite funny and sad at the same time. It chronicles the events leading up to and following the man’s fateful encounter with a New York City housekeeping maid.
Kalfus doesn’t try to disguise the parallels — Landau, notorious for his many “sex parties,” stays at the Sofitel before he travels to Germany for a meeting with Angela Merkel — and he describes Landau’s sexual encounters in vivid detail. Landau is arrogant man who is proud that he can afford to buy expensive gifts for women that he likes but he is also a man who has no self-control in experiences with these women. He knows he has to do something about this but is not able to. He is a representation of those that hunger for power and then abuses it when he gets it.
“Mercury,” is about a 24-year-old elementary school teacher asserts his independence whenever he can. He loses his job when he asks Sammy, a second-grade student to deliver to the fifth grade teacher, another male. This is a compelling story of reckless behavior and a look of the lasting damage that the taunts of older kids and the indifference of their teachers can inflict upon a younger student. “Mr. Iraq” is about a journalist who even though he had once been a liberal, now supports the invasion of Iraq but now has to help his ill 81-year-old father, who had once been arrested for protesting the president (Bush) from outside of the White House. outside the Bush White House. “Laser” is about an eleventh grade science teacher who has had glaucoma surgery that did not succeed as hoped and planned. Kalfus writes here on the fact that there is no such thing as human infallibility and if a belief in science surpasses a belief in doctors.
In “The Moment They Were Waiting For,” a convicted murderer sitting on death row casts a spell granting the inhabitants of his city the foreknowledge of the dates they will die. In “v. The Large Hadron Collider,” a judge who might have been involved in an adulterous affair faces the decision as to whether or not throw out a nuisance lawsuit that raises the even fainter possibility that the entire Earth may be destroyed. Set in Hawaii the judge retires to his chambers to decide whether or not to issue an injunction to stop a particle accelerator, which the plaintiffs in the nuisance lawsuit claim destroy the earth. “The Un-” is a nostalgic story, especially for writers, of a young writer’s struggles as he tries “to surmount the colossal, heavily guarded wall that apparently separates writers who have been published from those who have not”.
There are fifteen very diverse stories and while I have only mentioned a few of them I can assure that there is something for everyone here. Reading them is a journey into people’s minds and the worlds within them.