“‘Look,’ I said to him. ‘The fact is you don’t always choose your choices. You don’t always choose your victims and you don’t always choose your witnesses. That’s why we call them accidents.’”

– The Rise & Fall of the Scandamerican Domestic, Christopher Merkner


“You are a mediocre child.”

– Clara, from Frank


Merkner’s story collection and Lenny Abrahamson’s movie define the limits of both the mind and the living space by delving into their neglected corners in a delightfully bizarre, melancholic, and rather hilarious fashion.

With this month’s pairing, you’ll find:

  • Laughable failures of enculturation
  • Snap judgments of artwork
  • Affinities for the often neglected realms of mannequins and pig snot
  • Punctured loved ones
  • Getting carried away with rash ideas
  • An ode to the magic of remote cabins
  • Botched deliveries of morbid news
  • Docile suburbia contrasted with unpredictable eccentricities
  • Productive escapism
  • Characters tending to the mentally unstable and finding their own instability in the process
  • Physical manifestations of inward turmoil that are both strained and brilliant

With clever execution and a word economy that makes every morsel intentional, this pairing turns the stereotypical portrayal of American suburbia on its head. Maybe it’s not so evil or impotent or fill-in-the-blank. Maybe this landscape has been an easy target for skapegoating. And perhaps trauma has been conflated with artistic genius too often. Take some advice from Frank’s mom, “The torment didn’t make the music. He was always musical. If anything it slowed him down.”