Identification of short story (and author) about an inside joke at a funeral
August 25, 2010 11:06 PM   Subscribe

About two years back, I was traveling and picked up a huge book of short stories in a hostel. They were all by the same author, and for the most part, they were Roald Dahl-esque, intricately plotted, fast moving, usually violent or crimeish short stories with an elaborate twist at the end. However, one of the stories was a lovely departure from the others, and I'd like help identifying it.

The story was very quiet and character-driven. It was a frame story about a woman telling a friend about her father's funeral. The funeral had occurred years earlier, when the woman was in her 20s and not living at home, and her father's death had occurred suddenly. She felt extremely guilty and upset, as she'd been in a fight with her dad not too much before his death. At the funeral itself, a man comes up to offer condolences. He introduces himself, and for some reason, the man is a the subject of an inside joke her family has. The woman starts laughing uproariously, but disguises it as crying. Her mother, recognizing what's going on, leads her away.

I'm not doing it justice here, but it was a beautiful short story, and I'm interesting in reading more by the author.

Some other details: I'm fairly certain the book was by a male author, and a number of the stories took place in New York City. I don't think it was contemporary (although, of course, it could have been published more recently); something about the book (again, at least what I read) had a very '70s/'80s feel to it (like, Time Square still being a tacky porno haven; someone has a fax machine and it's a big deal). It was an extremely thick book, as well (I would guess about a thousand pages, but maybe my memory is wrong) and I read maybe 15 stories in it. It was too thick to travel with. In general, I should add, all the stories were very well written in a brisk, uncluttered kind of way and I liked his style, but they tended to run together if you read more than three at a time.

Does anyone recognize this story/author? And if you do, could you recommend something by him for me? (I assume he's prolific, since he's written at least 1000 pages of short stories)
posted by Ideal Impulse to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Jeffrey Archer writes crime/mystery short stories with a twist. His first set was called A Twist in the Tale. Don't know if it has that particular story, though.
posted by tracicle at 12:57 AM on August 26, 2010

Before seeing the more inside, I was all ready to suggest No Comebacks by Frederick Forsyth, but that's clearly not it given your story description, settings and volume length. I'm mentioning it as if you like short crime stories with a twist, it's a neat little collection.
posted by maxwelton at 1:21 AM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Though I haven't read any of his short story collections, my first thought on reading your description of theme and setting was Lawrence Block. It might be in Enough Rope, a 900 page collection of 84 short stories published in 2004.
posted by zoel at 3:54 AM on August 26, 2010

Best answer: Lawrence Block was going to be my guess as well, though I haven't read any of his short stories either. I can't recommend any of his novels, as I didn't really connect with the two I tried, but Wikipedia has a nice summary of his series characters to help you decide which might appeal to you.

Block also writes non-fiction. His Telling Lies for Fun and Profit is one of my favourite books about writing.
posted by Georgina at 6:13 AM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think zoel and Georgina have it. Is it "Leo Youngdahl, R.I.P."?
posted by dywypi at 6:22 AM on August 26, 2010

(See also the "Giggle Loop" episode of the British comedy "Coupling.")
posted by wenestvedt at 6:30 AM on August 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers--it certainly is "Leo Youngdahl, R.I.P." And based on the Wikipedia article, I think I read a short story about the Matthew Scudder character that I also rather liked in this book, so maybe that's what I'll start with.

Just I head's up; I have literally dozens of "What is this book/movie/cultural artifact" questions lined up in the queue. I'll be putting them out on AskMe, one week at a time.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 12:30 PM on August 26, 2010

If all of your queued questions are of that nature, you might also want to try the Name That Book group on Librarything. That way you could use MetaFilter for non-book questions!
posted by timepiece at 1:30 PM on August 26, 2010

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