By Charles Baxter, Pantheon, 416 pages

Popular fiction is not necessarily about saying popular things. Gryphon explores the world from a slightly cock-eyed perspective, that of the eternal pessimist. Although there are some glimmers of hope, those glimmers are quickly doused. Stories such as “The Would-Be Father” have some of the glimmers that myth may be what saves us, but as a buffer, a horrible reality rather than as a way to better explain it. Even the titular story raises the hopes of its main protagonist before crushing them in the flames of more mundane matters.

The writing is beautiful, even when the subject matter is not. This is not a positive book, but there is nothing wrong with that. Sometimes a little dose of negativity is needed; the hero does not always get there in time and the Seventh Cavalry is held up in traffic. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and simply can’t get out of it; that shouldn’t be a cause for concern as we all do it from time to time. This is the book for those that want to wallow for a bit in the morass of their own souls, looking for small bit of darkness in their lives.

Jamais Jochim