Irreconcilable Differences

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Gary Lutz’s new collection, divorcer, tells seven stories of divorce that will captivate every reader―single, married or divorced.

Gary Lutz’s books know what it is like to see parents split. His first collection Stories in the Worst Way was originally released from Knopf in 1996, later adopted by 3rd Bed, and then when they went quiet, Derek White of Calamari Press picked it up for a 2009 re-issue. Lutz’s second collection I Looked Alive saw the same tumult: published first by Four Walls Eight Windows and then re-issued just this past year by Black Square Editions. Even the tiny Future Tense chapbook of rare and early Lutz stories A Partial List of People to Bleach was a combination of reprints and work previously available in The Quarterly. But what is unique about divorcer, the fourth collection from one of the most touted indie press short story writers, is that it pushes a thematic connection throughout the entire book, something not done in any of the previous collections, and one would hope that this, in additional to all the other merits of divorcer, will keep it from being one more book-child example of Lutz’s literary-separations.

From “Divorcer”:

Marriage had not worked out to be a doubling of each other’s life, though there were duplicate juicers and sources of music.

My parents didn’t divorce, so I don’t know how it feels to be a child held between them. I have been married for eleven years, so I don’t know how it is to walk away finally and forever. But divorcer, Gary Lutz’s most explosive story collection to date, makes it all tangible: the pulling asunder, the quiet unasked-for solitude, the loss. divorcer is a brilliant portrayal of the act of divorce, the separation of bodies, the rent of togetherness. Thematically cohesive and extremely well-wrought, divorcer is a book that should stand as Lutz’s exemplar for decades.

From “Fathering”:

Some married people report pain or inflammation and others will tell you that a well-adjusted partner feels no need to touch the other. To me, though, marriage had always seemed more like one of those medical procedures that, once performed, could never be undone.

divorcer is about the deed of but also the art in divorce, about the tangled performance of disunion, from both sides, from all angles, the odd expansion that happens when another walks away in their placid shoes with arms around boxes or while sitting beside us, idly unknowingly falling apart. What Lutz captures in each of the seven stories in divorcer is how it feels to watch this happen as if from a body that is not our own, but a body we fear might one day exist.

And while some may expect in this collection the generic rendering of an event, Lutz avoids the often frequented and typically cliché victimization of divorce by writing characters who are either a part of it or watching themselves be a part of it – and who in any case, do not weep. Also divorcer brightly and equally includes all form of relationships (male/female, female/female, male/male) as well as dissolutions that are wanted, unwanted, questioned, accepted, and forced, creating a complete and beautifully ugly array of dissemblance and desctruction.

From “The Driving Dress”:

Divorce, I kept forgetting, is not the opposite of marriage, it’s the opposite of wedding. What comes after divorce isn’t more and more of the divorce. What came after, in my case, was simply volumed time, time in solid form, big blocks of it to be pushed aside if I ever felt up to it, though more often than not I arranged the blocks about me until I had built something that should have been some sort of stronghold but in fact was just another apartment within the apartment in which I was already staying away from  mirrors, shaving by approximation, bathing in overbubbled water that kept my body out of sight.

There is no more precise and calculated writer working today than Gary Lutz, and divorcer is full proof of his abilities to put words where we will not expect them, to cut sentences into burst hearts, to play on our senses, to pray on our ease by making everything uneasy. divorcer is tenuous and sad and lonely. divorcer is rife with the empty that remains when a chunk of our world washes away. divorcer makes us feel as if we have or were or did, even if we haven’t, yet.

J. A. Tyler is the author of The Zoo, a Going (Dzanc Books). His work has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Diagram, Denver Quarterly, New York Tyrant, Fairy Tale Review, and others. Find him online at or on Twitter at @J_A_Tyler. More from this author →