Charlotte M. Meyer (review date March-April 1984)
SOURCE: A review of I Smell Esther Williams, in American Book Review, Vol. 6, No. 3, March-April, 1984, p. 15.
[Meyer is an American educator. In the review below, she lauds Leyner's collection of short stories I Smell Esther Williams, finding the prose to be "chaotic and exhilarating."]
[I Smell Esther Williams, a] collection of twenty six short fictions, reads as if Leyner went to sleep or put himself into a trance to write them; they have the same exhilarating mixture of chaos and suggestiveness as sleep-talking. The title is absurdly evocative, a rich joke, but it is only one little monkey in an enormous, crowded barrelful. This has got to be among the funniest, most innovative fiction around. Here is a good sample, the opening to one of my favorites, "A Bedtime Story for My Wife":
The clock on the Hudson City Savings Bank billboard says 6:30, indicating nothing but the hands' exhaustion—it was so thrilling five minutes ago & now that seems like another life, when all the cars accelerated down Newark Avenue like they'd lost their brakes and some of the passengers, some of the women, craned their necks in the wind and their religious medals pulled against their necks and were held rigid in the draft of the wind and the dashboard saints bared their teeth to this speed and the sky went vermillion and then purple and then deep blue and then black like four blinks of the eye and the clock's hands just fell limp …
Almost all of the stories are insanely disjointed on the surface, on the level of logic, but at second glance each is clustered like the petals of some exotic asymmetrical bloom. The internal consistency of the stories originates more out of tone and mood than content. None of them is plotted in any conventional way, yet each is based on a sequence of association that has all the inevitability of a traditional story.
The twenty six of them are constructed in a variety of formats. "Octogenarians Die In Crash" is a play in five scenes. "Blue Dodge" is all in dialogue. "I Smell Esther Williams," the longest, is a collage of random bits and pieces—narratives, sketches, musical notation, movie scripts, and dialogues, such as this one, given...
(The entire section is 951 words.)