Feynman, normally as quick and lively as they come, went silent. It was the only time I’ve ever seen him look wistful. Finally he said dreamily, “I once thought I had that one figured out. It was beautiful.” And then, excited, he began an explanation that crescendoed in a near shout: “The reason space doesn’t weigh anything, I thought, is because there’s nothing there!”
To appreciate that surreal monologue, you need to know some backstory. It involves the distinction between vacuum and void.
All of the stories in this stark and cutting collection grapple with our failure to communicate, and investigate not merely the woeful inefficiency of language itself (although that’s bad enough) but also the inherent impossibility of truly understanding another person’s internal state.
The book’s power comes from Barrodale’s ability to distort and project the familiar into something new, like a visual artist playing with shadows cast on a gallery wall.
“An Innocent Fashion” is often wry (Ethan reports that his roommates are consultants, but “whom they consulted, and on what matters,” he has no idea), but sometimes it is abruptly literary, adopting a tone unlike any that Ethan might actually take. The book’s portrait of post-graduate millennial dishevelment, however, rings true. If Hernández indulges a juvenile tendency to state his thematic claims too baldly, he also manages to capture the confusion of a generation wilting beneath the weight of adult responsibility. His characters are vivid enough to stand alone, without any of his obligatory nods to the horrors of materialism and corporate drudgery.