‘Even in my fantasies I wasn’t the hero,’ laments Mackenzie, the narrator of ‘Zoanthropy’, one of the stories in this new collection from the enthusiastically touted young American author and screenplay writer David Benioff. This line would not have jarred in most of the pieces, for the central character is rarely the driving force in these narratives. Instead, it is the lovers and fathers, the cuckolded and abandoned who are charismatic. The protagonists are bland and mundane; even success seems to come to them at a price not worth paying. They are narrators rather than heroes.
American men are Benioff’s terrain, and when he strays from depicting them he is at his least convincing as with the story set in Chechnya, and ‘Garden of No’, written from the perspective of an actress. But on his home turf he is brilliant.
The men are burdened with unrealisable goals