David Gianatasio’s Mind Games messes with your head, but in the best way possible. A follow-up to 2006’s Swift Kicks, this brief collection of stories grabs you by the jugular. A mutiny of fervent voices bursts from the page, and each story is clever, bold, and off-the-charts surreal.
In “You Want a Piece of Me?,” the strangely endearing narrator gives body parts to those in need, his limbs existing as “spiritual” donations of sorts (not to mention that they regenerate immediately). He rips off his hand as a “comforting” gift to a mugged woman and he gives her stunned mugger his foot so that next time he can “outrun the cops.” After giving his eye to his troubled neighbor Cliff, he’s weakened and his limbs aren’t growing back properly. The tension between reality and fantasy is palpable in the Twilight-Zone ending: “I thought I heard [Cliff] say something about a heart . . . as he smiled and lifted his hands. Then he cracked his knuckles and flexed his fingers, leaning in close as he reached for the buttons of his shirt. Or was he reaching out for mine?”
Gianatasio experiments with technique to the point of creating literary vertigo, and he has fun doing it. He also delves deep into the human psyche: “The Insider” is a disturbing look at a man who fears an intruder is stealing from his apartment although he’s clearly the one losing his mind; “Waiting Room” explores why therapists should never share office space; and “Cage” brings a whole new meaning to paranoid dreaming.
Hilarious, irreverent, anxious, and at times unexpectedly poignant, Mind Games is full of compelling characters and outrageous contradictions. It also has something for everyone – sexed-up infomercials, sci-fi plot lines, stalker romance, and indecipherable riddles. Fans of witty experimental fiction will eagerly await Gianatasio’s next installment.