“This is meant to be the story of all lives, though I’m talking about one in particular,” Lisicky writes, and if the goal of Unbuilt Projects is “to be the story of all lives,” Lisicky has succeeded. Adept at harnessing the highs of life that are ruthlessly countered by lows— “see how the plants grow. And die a little”—these pieces are anchored by truths and by Truth. With an aptitude for creating vivid scenes, Lisicky envelops us in his stories, so though we did not stand under “The sky so scrubbed with stars it hurts,” it is as if we did.
We encounter a collision of God, sex, family, childhood and adulthood within the realm of these short fiction pieces, and we encounter the palpable pain of the speaker as he mourns a mother lost to dementia: “Who knew you were the ground we walked on, dreamed on?” Through the intersection of these varied themes, we are made privy to the speaker’s interior world—“And all I can say, today, is Joy, visit me now”—as well as made witness to the exterior world—“Sun on skin, hot gold light frying the hydrangea.” Ultimately, these stories give us everything, and so we are left wanting nothing, except more.
From “The Roofers,” from Unbuilt Projects:
I think I might be seeing what I want to see. I think I still want to believe in the God of my childhood, who was reminded, in song, that he’d champion the peacemaker. I think I don’t want to hear the military plane on its daily route just over the beach. I don’t even want to know about the deer who stepped up to the stranger for a bite of his apple today. First he fed him half his apple, the roofer mutters, and then he shot him in the head. Sun on the floor. Tang of smoke in the nose and the eye. I freeze, as if the ghost of that animal’s slipped in and out of the house, before I catch myself edging forward on the seat. A part of me wants more: death, death, the low, delicious word, whispered to me through night.