In Gathered Here Together, Garrett Socol offers an hallucinatory vision of contemporary American culture with prose that ricochets madly from the tragic to the comical and nearly always lands squarely in the realm of the bizarre. Among the more memorable characters gathered in this volume are a charismatic accountant realizing his lifelong dream of hosting Saturday Night Live, a beautician hosting a bake sale to pay for a round of electroconvulsive therapy, and a fictionalized version of the inventor of Roget’s Thesaurus. Yet the collection isn’t just zany for the sake of zany — and not every story carries comic overtones. One piece in particular stands out for its seriousness and depth; in “We Knew What It Was By Then,” Socol lovingly and painfully depicts the final hours of a young man dying of AIDS in the late 1980s. This is certainly the most moving of the stories in this debut collection, and its emotional depth suggests that when he puts his mind to it (not to mention his heart) Socol can be far more than a gifted off-the-wall satirist.
-Review by Marc Schuster