I’ve been waiting for this book ever since I first read Mark Mayer’s work, and my anticipation was fully justified: Aerialists is one of the best collections I’ve read in years. These stories are bright and muscular, luminous and generous, nimble and funny, tender and surprising at every turn. They march you to the terrifying precipice of human darkness and relationships and longing and dangle you over the edge. They broke my heart, and I am better for the breaking.
Mark Mayer writes with a humorous, wistful elegance. His stories are singular, as detached and intimate as dreaming.
There’s a sense of wide-eyed wonderment in these stories that’s truly rare. Mark Mayer may well live in the same world as you and me, but he’s able to see beyond it all somehow, and he finds extraordinary weirdness and beauty everywhere he looks. Aerialists is exquisite and wild at the same time. How often does one read a book like this?
Through this superb collection, Mark Mayer has built a circus of the normal, has somehow infiltrated the ordinary to reveal the freak inside. These classically constructed stories offer scale models of heartbreak and rage—cynicism and doubt and loss writ so small, then deftly magnified, blown up by tenderness. Mayer shapes the mild, the banal, the picturesque, the sweet, then punctures all that with nothing but reality, a sewing needle in the back of the neck, precise, sharp, unexpected; you go down hard, but know the thrill of being taken out by a master.
Of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” one baffled critic wrote that the music always went to the note next to the one you expected. That’s Mark Mayer’s deal: you’re bracing for a punch but he leg-sweeps you; you’re still reeling when his boutonnière squirts you; as you start to laugh it off, you realize the blow is fatal. Like a true impresario, Mayer never lets you get bored, and you leave feeling like you got more than you paid for. In Aerialists’s nine uncanny, perfectly crafted stories, which bring to mind short-form experts like George Saunders and Steven Millhauser, Mark Mayer puts on the greatest show on Earth.
An exhilarating ether of uncommon intelligence inhabits these stories. Mark Mayer writes beauty, writes funny, writes wise, writes awful, writes marvel, writes verve, writes sad. If the emergency exits are everywhere blocked here, even the unbearable incorporates strange uplift, admits fierce grace, and the whole is frequently gusted by truth. This is the real thing: what an exciting debut.
Brilliant and wrenching, Aerialists explores with great care the struggle to love and be loved, to know and be known. Mayer’s worlds unfold with unwavering compassion and vulnerability. The result is revelatory, brimful with the terror and joy of life laid bare.
Aerialists is a work of great imagination. These stories are always in motion, as characters reach for their better selves and touch them only briefly, in singular, exquisite moments rendered in astounding prose. Mark Mayer is wise and big-hearted, a magician of the American sentence. Each story is its own world, inhabited by characters who are painfully, wonderfully real.
A dazzling collection filled with characters who evoke, in their flawed humanity, the strange, sorrowful and ever shimmering world of the circus. Mayer’s bittersweet stories are playful, haunting and wonderfully inventive. Read them and be transported.
Mark Mayer’s tender and surprising stories feature people that are yearning for connections in a world gone slightly askew. A son of newly divorced parents forms a fleeting relationship with his mother’s new lover, an old bachelor seeks someone to care for his model train set, a lonely girl imagines a telepathic connection to a profoundly disabled girl in these tales. There are wondrous discoveries as these characters’ emotions are revealed through odd choices, strange behaviors and a bit of desperation. It’s just like real life, only more heartbreaking and beautiful.