Published April 2012
From Victorian toy theatres to a painting with a mysterious story behind it to a graphic novelist's battle with the schizophrenia which causes her cartoon characters to march off the page, the novella and six stories in Debra Spark's fourth work of fiction, The Pretty Girl, revolve around artists, artistry, and the magical--sometimes malicious--deceptions they create. With settings that traverse New York's Lower East Side, Victorian London, Paris and Switzerland, Spark's stories twist and turn in mesmerizing ways as they reflect on the fictions we fabricate about and for friends, family, and strangers.
In one story, a woman finds her life unexpectedly dramatized on the stage; in another, a couple's reconnection with a family friend leads to a labyrinth of mysteries and miscommunications. In the tour-de-force "A Wedding Story," Simon Baal Shem, a charming five-inch rabbi found in a chocolate egg offers life advice in the form of Jewish stories. Gritty and elusive, Spark's stories work like the best magic tricks, seeming to defy the laws of reality even as they deftly extend and reinvigorate those laws. Readers who love magical realism, illusions, Jewish literature, and art, will be captivated by Spark's wonderfully textured The Pretty Girl.