Isaac Rubenstein has no choice but to kill himself.He’s in love with Rudolf Valentino, and now Valentino is dead. His acolytes are committing suicide all over the city. The window to definitively display his devotion is closing, and for once the New York tenement apartment he shares with his mother, his grandmother, and his siblings is quiet. It has to be now.Unless he doesn’t, because his grandmother calls out for him right before the blade touches his skin. Unless he does, and the cuts bleed away his heart’s blood.In Karen M. Vaughn’s romantic and darkly funny melodrama, Isaac Rubinstein does both. Dies, and is united with his beautiful Valentino. Lives, and finds a reason to live.A Kiss for a Dead Film Star is a astonishing debut collection of stories that inspire weird love and uncover surprising caches of eroticism. Psycho-medical-magical realism intertwine with old and new New York City, epic love stories, and tales best told in the smoky alleys behind bars or beneath the covers. Karen Vaughn’s capacious imagination and remarkable voice glitter—this collection is a comet that comes around rarely.
#ReadingIsResistance to lack of imagination. Karen Vaughan’s short story collection, A Kiss for a Dead Film Star, is filled with characters who are, well … characters.
Take, for instance, the histrionic Isaac Rubinstein in the title story, who grieves the way only a star struck teenager can. Rudolph Valentino has died, and Isaac must make the perfect symbolic gesture to show both Valentino, and the world, just how much Isaac adored his movie star. The breathlessness of Isaac’s panic and need to make this gesture, is there. Vaughn’s writing makes the reader feel great anxiety for the fate of this wistful teenager.
In “Still Life With Fossils,” dinosaurs talk to each other from the afterlife, welcoming them to a tribe only they can experience. This story takes the question, “Is there life after death,” in a very unexpected direction. It’s my favorite in the collection.
The spooky story “Limbs,” takes being different from everyone else to a new level. Take a family of migrant Mexican farm workers and then give them a secret they have to hide at all costs. Frightening.
I’m glad to have read this little collection of stories. Each has a different voice with intriguing themes. Months after reading, they still haunt me. Especially the dinosaurs.