Sam Shepard knows how to spin stories out of next to nothing and make them mesmerizing, gleeful, spooky, puzzling or heartbreaking. This collection of more than 100 sketches, poems and short stories is a delight throughout, as he illuminates horse trainers and actors, aimless travelers and bored spouses, and the disconnect, literally, between our brains and our bodies. "Saving Fats" is a rollicking story in which an overweight airline passenger draws a quiet-seeking seatmate into his account of personally helping save a tuxedo-clad Fats Domino -- and his white baby grand -- from Hurricane Katrina's roiling floodwaters. In "Knoxville, Tennessee," a solitary driver meditates on the history that informs the light "yips" in Ralph Stanley's singing. These ruminations add up to an aging man's still vibrant sense of yearning and wonder. As Shepard says in "Tops," "Things like these just come floating in these days. Uninvited." But welcome, nonetheless.
Comedy writer Julie Klausner offers an amusing, if pornographic, memoir on the hazards of dating cads. Subtitled "What I Learned From Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux Sensitive Hipsters and Other Guys I've Dated," the paperback reads like a diary of Klausner's sexual awakening (phone sex on a chat line at age 12) and adventures (numerous and mostly ill-advised throughout her teens and 20s). Klausner follows her "sloppy, panting heart" all over New York City, gathering anecdotes, bruised feelings and a bit of wisdom. Women shouldn't "feel bad for feeling bad" after a failed romance, she says, while also insightfully comparing hipster boys to the reticent Kermit the Frog and modern women to the aggressive Miss Piggy.
The overall level of humor doesn't quite fulfill the promise of the clever title. (And seriously, why date musicians if you don't like live music? Apparently Klausner's learning curve was quite steep.) Her writing occasionally seems lazy, as evidenced by oddly strained metaphors, such as comparing a would-be beau to Charmin Ultra. Still, her tawdry tales provide a voyeuristic view into an often horrifying love life that, we hope, makes yours look a lot more sane.