The strongest stories in Maliszewski’s Prayer and Parable were terrific: precise and incisive. They reminded me a bit of David Foster Wallace in their exacting detail and preoccupation with the limitations of communication. Maliszewksi’s characters are frequently aware that something they just said came out wrong, or that there’s a “right” thing to say, which they can’t quite find. They reminded me of a handful of moments of unusual clarity in my own life; times when I felt like I could predict, if not necessarily alter, the course a discussion would take, like some chess grandmaster seeing the shape of the board many moves ahead.
In the weakest stories, Maliszewksi’s formalism verges on gimmickry: almost none of his people have given names; most are referred to only as “the man,” “the wife,” “the husband,” “the boy,” and so on. Maliszewki’s titles almost all take the form of “Parable of . . .” or “Prayer for . . .”; the reader is initially perhaps led to believe that the “prayers” are more naturalistic and the “parables” are more symbolic/fabulist or, well, parable-y, but Maliszewksi quickly subverts that convention.
Although I thought Prayer and Parable was uneven, its high points were more than enough to keep Maliszewski on the list of writers I’m eager to see more from.