Another notable short-story collection: Boys And Girls Like You And Me by Aryn Kyle. I'm not sure how to explain this without using a weird analogy, so I'll just go ahead and say that reading these stories for me was kind of like watching someone make an evening gown out of office supplies and succeed remarkably. Halfway through the first story I was confused and impatient, at the end of the second story I was charmed, after the third story I was entirely won over, and from that point on I was content to just sit back and watch it all happen. The raw material used for these stories is painful stuff, as Kyle's characters all seem to be dealing with some kind of gaping emotional lack; but it is just material, not manifesto, and she shapes it in some unexpected ways. It often happens that talented new writers are praised for "voice," the idea of "voice" having become part of the mythos of our age, but "voice" in this collection seems beside the point. It's all about construction. And choices. One story's protagonist works in a bookstore and is having an affair with her boss, who is a married man. I can't even begin to count the number of American short stories I have read with a similar plot and setup (for better or worse, bookstore + adultery is almost a lit mag staple) and yet I did not have a chance to roll my eyes before being thoroughly absorbed in where the story was going. Something about the strange but precise angling of themes seemed reminiscent of Charles Baxter to me. Speaking of angles--and to close with another weird analogy--reading this collection was kind of like seeing someone with a magnifying glass and thinking they are going to proceed with a serious science experiment, then watching as they walk outside into the sunset and--using precise calculations--set the lawn on fire.
(I haven't read and therefore can't comment on Kyle's novel, The God Of Animals, but I intend to shortly.)