This collection digs deep into humanity ensnared in the frustrations of the way things work, with compassion thwarted by bureaucracy, beauty tainted by facts of life, and thus forth. It’s not for the delicate. I highly recommend it for the pragmatic prose and storytelling. I was fortunate to receive this short story collection, reminiscent of the style of one of my favorite storytellers Steve Carr, also for the emotionally hardy reader, from the publisher University of Nevada Press through NetGalley.
From a dystopian Earth of radical climate unlivable for humans, to a ghost exacting payment in the form of a child, these stories will plunge you deep and whip you back up into the air. Carr writes about the human condition while delving into fantasy, science fiction, and psychological horror, bringing readers to the edge and nearly dropping them. Neighbor fears neighbor in a world gone nuclear, an old man brings life back to the soil through magical wind chimes, and a neglected wife flies away on a hummingbird. Carr’s style is intense, lingering with readers. I highly recommend all of his books.
The stories get better as you go deeper into this collection. The graphic depictions of sex and violence are just enough to give Dear Readers with active imaginations speculative ammo for tremors and terrors. Run, don’t walk, through these stories. Something always goes awry in the everyday worlds of Jack Rollins. A woman seeking sexual release exacts supernatural revenge on the shady service professional she hired for this purpose. An elderly couple become fungi. The ghost ship’s captain shows a very human sense of integrity. A young man cheating on his boyfriend discovers that not all legendary villains are fiction. A family man finds what appears to be evidence of a serial killer in the garage of their newly acquired home. Oh, and the lost god Mammon trips lightly through many of these tales—don’t turn around; keep running. Jack’s work is unique and his style feels personal, almost as though the characters are sharing too much, which works into a creepy crawly feeling under your skin. The only thing that popped me out of his stories is the common description of any man as tall, strong, and muscular. There are no wimps in Jack’s worlds. Despite that niggle, his work is solid and entertaining. I highly recommend this collection; really, anything by him. He’s so open and frank that his introductions to each story are nearly stories themselves; I thought the first one was the story!
This collection opens with a tale so convincing dear reader will be googling Count Darlotsoff of the Russian Revolution. Roorbach’s stories ramble along pleasantly, with wit and wisdom, from a unique perspective. Then BOOM! Something astonishing happens, sometimes indicated by a simple line, “And fell into a basement hole,” and sometimes portraying a much larger concept, such as patricide. The tales delve into history—the aforementioned Russian Revolution; plunges deep into socio-political culture—“His father was an important king or chieftain in an area of central Africa he refused to call a country, an area upon which the Belgians and several other European powers had long imposed borders and were now instituting ‘native’ parliaments before departing per treaty after generations of brutal occupation;” and parses human emotions and relationship dynamics—“sharks unto minnows.” There’s even a ghost story, with elements of land conservation, familial squabbles, and burgeoning love. As diverse as the themes are, and as broad the representation of people, one story stands out for its LGBT ignorance, as a main character tells the benefactor of her theater, a widower asking for a kiss, “Marcia had politely allowed just one, then explained that while being a lesbian might not mean she was entirely unavailable, her long-term relationship did.” He then proceeds to win over her wife, and they merrily cavort about town, all three holding hands, doing everything as a threesome. Lesbian relationships are real relationships, and lesbians are not toys for a man’s pleasure. That being said, this is a blemish on a set of otherwise fascinating and weird and brilliant stories. The book is dedicated to Jim Harrison, whose fans will likely appreciate Roorbach’s work.
Steve Carr’s first collection of short stories is fantastic. His work is intense, reaching into the reader’s head and twisting emotions, shattering logic and reason. The first story Tenderloin is—pun intended—a punch in the gut, as the reader sees the grittiness of the setting and feels the coiled tension in the main character, a veteran of the Iraq War. With journalistic expertise, Carr displays monstrous humanity in a brevity of words, as in The Saguaro Two Step, in which the woman wins the loot in the end, and exposes desperation, as in The Festival of The Cull, wherein Shamina can no longer vote on who is to be terminated. Reality bends as one ventures further into the book, as in the self-explanatory The Girl in a Mason Jar, gets fishy in Strange Water, and disappears in When Wizards Sing, where animals and men blend. The stories are diverse, with main characters of various genders, sexual orientations, ages, cultures, and even species. The book ends with stories of the afterlife on a never-ending train ride for incorrigibles, a man’s struggle for gravity, and the misplaced hope of a senior citizen. Definitely a must-read! Follow Steve on Facebook and Twitter. Purchase Sand at Lulu.com or Amazon.com.