Monday, December 29, 2003

Two collections of short stories by Bill Gaston.
Sex is Red (1998).
Mount Appetite (2002).

Both clever, Both insightful. Both playful. Both concerned with what people want, how people feel.

I shared a few lines that really appealed to me from "Sex is Red" (the title story) with my friend Mark; his observation was that they seemed overly clever, which could lead to the way of badness if done solely for the sake of being clever. Mark's right, of course, but these two collections both avoid that problem. (Mark also commented on the delightful synaesthesia of the title of Sex is Red, which remark bears repeating, with the additional note that the remark offers a word that is used much too infrequently. Everyone likes a nice bit of synaesthesia.) I also enjoy a good pun, once in a while, and this title provides.

Short fiction is not normally a form in which find I can get lost, in which I get transported someplace that is else. There are a few--Linda Kenyon's short short fiction collection You Are Here leaps to mind--but they're too few and far between for me. I think what makes today's blogged collections so vibrant, so enjoyable, is the talent for description that Gaston has. Consider:
So it was obvious, his attraction to her. She wasn't sure how it would rear its ugly head--that was how she thought of it, as the cliché--picturing a kind of clumsy, faceless knob of yearning rising up at her in public, sort of like a penis manifest in human form.
-- from "Sex is Red" (20)
There is throughout both collections an attraction to the just-ever-so-slightly grotesque, to the very edges of politeness... Combined with a startlingly perceptive & honest insight into the nature of the hows & whys of people's actions (and especially the oddness that is sexual attraction), and an impulse to odd imagery (e.g., planting chives instead of grass over the hole in the front yard where once lived a septic tank:
The sprouting did look like grass, thick, slightly cartoony grass, but soon it spiked up high anduniform and rubbery. If the breeze was right, you could smell onion. Then the topflowers came, and their yard had a foot-high green cake with mauve frosting.
-- ibid.
result in stories that you don't want to put down.

Go to your neighbourhood bookstore and buy. Or go to your public library and check-out.

Enjoy. Repeatedly.

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