Tag Archives: human condition

13May/18

Read by Strangers: Stories by Philip Dean Walker

We had the pleasure of interviewing Philip Dean Walker back in November 2016. To listen to his episode and get links to his work, check out Episode 084: Bars Are Where Our History Happened!

I was very much looking forward to this next collection of stories from Philip Dean Walker, after enjoying the superb At Danceteria and other Stories. Whilst that book concentrated on definitive moments in our history, and real people, this anthology has a mixed bag of stories and characters plucked from Walker’s imagination.

And what an imagination it is, from the woman who endangers her baby whilst engaging in an illicit affair to the man whose fantasies take a very dark turn. Despite the lurking horror, there is a playfulness to the writing, a chance for Walker to play with different styles from lilting to staccato, poetic to erotic. Perhaps because the stories were written over a few years, some being published elsewhere before now, the mix of styles could seem a little disjointed, although I enjoyed the unpredictability of it. In all cases though, the quality was outstanding.

Here we have a writer not afraid to experiment. A Cup of Fur was distinctly odd, and took it’s sweet time to get to the point. In various cases, there doesn’t seem to be a point per se. Each piece seems to be a cold, hard look at the human condition, and what some people are capable of.

I enjoyed the sense of experimentation, of testing himself with the viewpoints of people of various genders and sexuality. There is no doubt this is a literary collection, yet balancing the gravitas with a sense of mischievousness to stop the stories becoming dry and worthy. There is no consistency with the length of stories, so each one is a surprise.

Standouts for me were Unicorn, where lads trespassing in an abandoned house learn more about a family tragedy, A Goddess Lying Breathless In Carnage, beautiful and sinister, And Three-Sink Sink. I still don’t understand the title but the writing was pure, savage and totally compelling.

BLURB

Read by Strangers is a collection of sixteen stories exploring the complexities of the human experience. From weary men seeking a ride back from a club but find themselves trapped to a woman addicted to a virtual reality game who is neglecting her child to a man whose fantasies about of his neighbor’s wife have begun to take over his life, the characters in each of these stories are enveloped in their commitment to their own personal desires. 

21Oct/16

Review of A Faithful Son by Michael Scott Garvin

faith

Michael Scott Garvin joined us very recently for a chat about his debut novel and writing without the intention of publishing. Hear his episode and find out more about his work here! Episode 080: Michael Scott Garvin – Be Brave

REVIEW

When I begin a book, it sometimes takes a while to figure out whether or not the author is trustworthy. There may be wobbles before they have found their stride, and sometimes you can leap straight into a novel and immediately feel safe.

Michael Scott Garvin belongs firmly in the latter group, a natural writer who has imbued his debut novel with bittersweet small-town American charm. It is a literary, articulate and hugely entertaining time-piece, telling of what it was like to be a gay small-town boy in the 1970’s, with an engaging, sometimes tortured main character.

So we have the story of Zach, a young gay man living in a God-fearing community, with an increasingly drunk father and a stoic, very traditional mother. All their lives are marred by the death of his little sister, and the subsequent disintegration of the family unit.

So far, so bleak, if it were not for the perfectly drawn characters surrounding the family. Erstwhile church ladies and their barely-tolerated husbands provide a balance of humour to offset the tragedy, whilst cleverly showing that religious fervour can have an adverse affect on those who believe.

A small quibble would be that the satellite characters were listed rather than woven subtly into the plot, and at first this makes the book seem a little disjointed, but when Zach becomes the main focus again, the book regains it’s footing. As he realises he is gay, and what he does with that dawning knowledge, rings so true it almost feels like a biography. In fact, it feels as if Zach could speak for many gay men in rural communities, going through the same struggles he did. I found myself cringing for him when he was discovered, and glowing when he found genuine piece of mind.

This doesn’t seem like a wish-fulfilment novel, but one that is being played out all over the world every day. For that reason, it deserves to have as much exposure as possible, and anyone who honestly believes that being gay is all about being fabulous, needs to read this and learn from it.

The next great American gay novel? Or just the next great American human novel? Whichever way you look at it, this is a beautiful, literary and very moving book, one that I will be buying in paperback so it can sit on my bookshelf, on display. I must just mention the cover as well. That image of the sun struggling to shine through the windows of a silhouetted, isolated house is just perfect.