Karyn L. Barr
April 18, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

In his debut collection of stories, Haskell and his wild imagination put some fictional oomph into reality. He takes true facts about some of the more curious icons of history and entertainment, from the Indian god Ganesha to Psycho star Anthony Perkins, and then literally puts words into their mouths — and thoughts into their heads. In ”Elephant Feelings,” the most intense of the nine stories, Haskell tells the tale of Topsy, a true-life Coney Island elephant that was executed after killing a man (its third victim) in 1903. Unlike most accounts of the homicidal pachyderm, Haskell’s version reimagines the feelings of anger, solitude, and dejection that pushed the once-famous animal over the edge. The highly original, Hemingway-esque prose is just as colorful and provocative as Pollock’s paintings.

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