In Oh, Don’t Ask Why, Dennis Must’s dark humor and use of jarringly raw language confront a number of anxieties and complexities with which his characters grapple. From overwhelming sorrow to suicidal reflection, this compilation of stories reaches deep into the internal and touches readers to the core.
“Dennis Must’s splendid new collection Oh, Don’t Ask Why is a worthy successor to Banjo Grease, his first book of stories, and it advances elements from that work: diminution of vitality, dissolution of family, fierce filial loyalties, a mingling of sexual ador, grief, loss, and spiritual and moral anxiety and ambiguity. These elements are not merely threads in the collection’s tapestry but are its very guts and sinew. The glass through which Must’s characters perceive life is definitely noir, and they are daunted by a variety of forces, among them multiple personalities and suicidal longings (hope and despair can exist in the same sentence in a Must story), and many have an aesthetic subtext. Often it seems the sacred can only be defined by and in the presence of the profane–think of Kafka, Flannery O’Connor, Nathaniel West, Hawthorne. This is a darkly funny book that provokes the sort of laughter that dies in your throat as you realize that, as Brecht put it, ‘He who laughs has not yet been told the terrible news.’
In Oh, Don’t Ask Why we can again admire Must’s trademark swift exposition and startling visual coups, and experience his affinity for the perfect detail.
This collection will haunt the reader for a long, long time; as a Fitzgerald notebook entry goes, ‘Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.’—Geoffrey Clark, author of Wedding in October and Jackdog Summer