Saying The Middle Stories are sad is like saying life is sad: true, but not true enough. It would be easy to categorize the storiesas depressive twee, the kind of book that goes to the Farmer’s Market because it doesn’t know what else to do. Instead, these bits are punctuated fragments of an unbounded hopelessness, without the reassuring container of conventional narrative. Their characters don’t have the narrowing traits that tell the reader, “Don’t worry, this is about someone else.” They’re stripped down for maximum impact. Heti’s expansive shorts recall Thomas Bernhard inThe Voice Imitator or Raymond Carver in Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? more than David Foster Wallace in Brief Interviews with Hideous Men or Eggers in How We Are Hungry. In Heti’s stories, there’s little consolation in life’s little victories; they’re merely the stitching of life’s mesh of voids and disappointments. There’s no morbid self-satisfaction in authorial artifice, only the unceasing approach of the unavoidable. When you wink into the abyss, Heti offers, it doesn’t wink back.