Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions. I keep my visions to myself.
Like the meaningful words sung by the legendary Fleetwood Mac, Victor A. DAvis’ “Gingerbread” is ethereal and born out of the dreams. Putting the essence of a dream into words is no easy task. In fact, it’s mostly an unsuccessful task. However, in Davis’ sinister reiteration of “Peter Rabbit”, it’s the chimerical imagery that makes this story better than your average re-imaginings.
The plot has two friends, Edgar and Arainy, entering a candy factory under the pretense to steal some sugary gold. Despite reservations, Arainy accepts her friends’ challenge to get her hands on this candy, despite the looming threat of the ever-present Candy Man. One does not want to get caught by this being for reasons you can only infer.
Instead of becoming a tale of warning against crime and the inevitability of comeuppance, Davis’ weaves themes of guilt and the propensity to inflict pain upon another. There’s commentary on humanity and the balances that fatalism can bring, but also a presentation of style by an author that clearly knows his way with words.
Everyone knows a “Basement Man”. You know that guy who always seems to be doing something crazy and unpredictable, be it being day drunk in the local bar to waxing on the state of philosophy. Sometimes we avoid him, sometimes we embrace him.
In Joseph Ferguson’s short story collection “Southbound”, one such “Basement Man” is written about. His zany situations are documented with precision and panache, clear signs that the author is adept at the written word. Ferguson ensures that he does not create one-dimensional characters or wooden dialogue. Instead, each short story comprising “Southbound” is almost like an insight into one person’s plot in life and their colorful approach to life without subscribing to any prevalent formulas encompassing modern literature today.
“Southbound” is edgy and unsettling at times, but it’s also quite riveting. The reader is along for the ride of life that belongs to one “Basement Man”, whether he likes or not. We are not judging him, and he is surely not judging us because he’s just trying to get by.
The short story “Written On The Apple Tree” is short but resonant. Capping out at a mere 4000 words, the author, Ann Girdharry, feels ethereal and magical. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a light read as that label implies that there isn’t much substance, but it won’t weigh you down either with tumult or angst.
There’s a little bit of time travel action, a little bit of love story. There’s clever, wispy dialogue, and a pace that is comforting and pleasant. Girdharry manages to depict a relationship that is unique at the very core, presenting facts and situations to the reader where the reader becomes invested in the well being of these two major characters.
It’s all very good. There are bigger, deeper questions that shimmer on each page, ranging from the impact of long-ago decisions to the power of suggestion. Either way you look at it, Girdharry is a bright writer, and I’m eager to read what’s next of her sleeve.
This one’s heavy.
Heavy, but honest. Frank E. Dobson’s prosaic “Rendered Invisible: Stories of Blacks and Whites, Love and Death” is timeless in its tenacity and representation of the still-present racism lingering around the world. However, instead of decided to focus on the pain and insensitivity that typically accompanies tales of blatant racism, Dobson provides a slant on the emotions and stories of those affected.
We all know that the media is selective in what it decides ‘news worthy’ to share with the world. Dobson brings attention to one of the examples of a heinous crime that should have been on every television screen in America. Set in the 80’s (one of my favorite decades), this collection of short stories is gritty in setting and dialogue alike. The true-life .22 Caliber killings rocked New York. A serial killer with racism as one of his chief motivators is the evil here, malicious with intent.
Dobson interestingly plays on the sometimes inherent racism that still exists in modern cities today. With a murderer who is bent on inciting a racial war by killing black men, each story here study different overarching life themes. Gender and class, as well as race, provide the crux of the tales, providing the reader with an intimate look into the people of a city rocked by violence and fear.
Dobson accomplishes that rare feat of uniting humanity in terms of the human condition instead of the color of one’s skin. It’s an important piece that will speak to all readers.
Comprised of 13 tales, Steve Anderson’s charming “1979” is a satisfying read through and through. These tales all depict coming-of-age for several characters in the deep of working-class America. However, the setting is only a stand-in for the universal feelings and themes that are introduced in each of the short stories, rife with characters who are tackling the difficult road to adulthood and coming to terms of understanding what their lot in life might be.
At the cusp of the decade that would see the birth of the personal computer and of punk music, each of the stories told by Anderson are about rebirth and recognition, to some extent. While the stark landscapes can come across as a bit disparate, the author manages to subvert the abandoned factories and rural surroundings and introduce characters that are not only realistic, but are, too, on the cusp of adulthood and a new age.
There are the requisite themes that are often present in coming-of-age novels, from innocent sexual awakenings to glimpsing the truths that lie hidden behind existing facades, both physically and literally. Some stories are bit more risque than others, but once again, the actions fit into the tone of each of the stories. And, strangely enough, the issues facing the characters in “1979” are very similar to the ones facing the kids of today’s technological age, albeit in slightly different contexts.
“1979” is a modern contemplation into what it means to mature and the importance of life experience in contributing to what the adult version of oneself will be. Good job, Anderson.
Short story collections can either be an exercise in frustration or illuminating in its depiction of life and various subject matters. Fortunately, Kesia Alexander’s “It Ain’t Easy” falls into the latter category with spectacular results.
The stories that comprise Alexandra’s book are at once raw and beautiful. Alexandra is not afraid to tell a story that holds no punches when detailing what it was like growing up in Washington, DC. Instead of focusing on the historical monuments that have come to identify the city, Alexandra has chosen to tell stories of self-discovery, race relations, and sheer honesty. From childhood interactions from different social classes to the highly privileged, Alexandra’s prosaic talents and capacity as a true storyteller transcends the page.
With well-rounded characters who have clear motivations, It Ain’t Easy collectively is a reminder that what makes us all different is what makes us all the same. Emotion, happenstance and feeling is not relegated to one type of person or another. In fact, for a person so young, Alexandra touches upon the notion that it is the human condition that unites us all, regardless of one’s current situation.
I just love coincidences.
In light of recent events, I’ve recently begun to re-read Eckhart Tolle’s masterpiece “A New Earth”. I tend to bring it back into my literary fold from time to time. It’s reminder of the importance of being Present every single moment which never fails to shake me from my current internal monologue and re-assessments of life.
Funnily enough, the next book in my queue was The Mind of the Living by J. Kaihua, a short story that, like Tolle, speaks about the tendency we humans have to get embroiled in the insanity of daily living and to forget about the more important things in life. Kaihua’s story is beautifully illustrated from nearly 200 year old photos taken from The British Library, providing the simplicity of the story with powerful imagery and provocation of the collective imagination.
As I attempt to formulate my review of Lauri Bortz’ Kung Fu Kitty – Laying Down The Law, I find myself at a loss for words in fear of not accurately assessing the charm and wonder that this short story has brought. At a slim 80 pages, Kung Fu Kitty is literally unlike anything I have ever read in my entire life, and this is a definite good thing.
The story is a very clever retelling of the popular Exodus story but – are you ready for this – with cats. That’s right. Using myth-laden Chinese philosophy, and replete with magical gods and a population of cats, Lauri Bortz has created a masterpiece in taking a religious tale and making it into an epic of wonder and fascination.
A collection of 10 short stories (hence the title, get it?), author Martin B. Flores attempts to combine the moral-laden fairy tales of childhood with a certain sense of modernity. This combination is successful in that the stories will hold the interest of the younger readers, but as an adult reviewer, there were components that I felt were particularly resonant.
Like many popular fairy tales of new and old, Flores’ tales are literally short and sweet. They follow typical structures that make fairly tales so timeless; decisions need to be made, lessons to be learned, truths to be discovered, etc. It was genuinely a welcoming experience to be able to read something at face value that was not trying to subvert the reader’s experience or to try to be the next great novel. The reticent nostalgia that is contained in each of these stories (especially the self-reflective and haunting The King Against Himself) will entertain every reader, particularly due to the short length of each tale.
All in all a good, quick read.
Some authors are incredibly skilled at the perfection of dialogue. Cadence and tone, their talent at emulating realism of fictitious conversation are revelatory. Other authors excel in their depiction of imagery and setting, almost lulling the reader into a hypnotic state where an artificial world is not so unlike our real own. In ‘fly and other stories,’ Anneliese Poelsma bridges the gap between the two above literary ingredients and churns out a haunting collection of works left me with a veritable impression of intensity.
Poelsma, an artist from Melbourne, Australia with a propensity for effective visualization of scenes and imagery, has created a collection of tales that handily address the more taboo thematic constructs of literature today. Elements of the horror, psychological thriller, and untrustworthy narrator genres all are at play in the six stories that comprise ‘fly.’ The title of the work is self-explanatory: each of the stories therein refuse to be pigeonholed into any particular genre’s fisticuffs. Instead, in stories like “I Live In The Bathroom” and the deeply creepy “Jennifer,” Poelsma eschews any limitations that a type of story-telling may have and creates her own effective spin on what defines a good read.