Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday 10 August 2019

"Alligators in the Night" by Meg Pokrass (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2018)

About 70 Flash pieces (and they are Flash, not just short texts), from Atticus Review, Jellyfish Review, Necessary Fiction, Tin House, Wigleaf, etc. They're usually about a page long, though "Her Own Music" is 4. Situations abound where the status of a relation is changing - first dates especially, the main character (always female?) in want of a relationship, lacking the skills to find one. There are also many pets, breasts, freckles and dogs that sniff at guests. The idea of eloping to Alaska appears in 3 stories, lice in thrift shops appearing in 2.

Some of the previously published stories that are online include - "Where I found him", "Alligators at night", "Albino" and "Shoulder bird". The pieces usually start well, often in a hurry. I was puzzled by some of the endings. I liked "Piano hunting", "Sex In Siberia", "Orgasms", "The benefits of krill", "Shoulder Bird", "Playing the Chicken", "Robbers" - stories whose sentences seem to go off in different directions but when traced back all originate at the same place. I didn't understand "We Was Sweet", "Others of Similar Dimension and Need", or the title "Egg Foot".

I felt that sometimes stories tried rather too hard to repeatedly surprise.

  • "Round Women" starts with "The women were large as human snails and round as moons". The 2 big-breasted women proposition her husband and ask for money. The wife has a fake breast she calls Iris - "a beautiful name, the name of a blond woman running through a field of flowers, barefoot". The wife enjoys the fact that the round women has eye problems and can't see her. Rather than intercede she wonders if her interested husband "could perform under such conditions". It ends with
    The other woman was watching, taking notes. The rounder woman with the kissing problems kept going. [stripping?]
    My husband's eyes were fixed on the window. This made me sad, as though he were looking for me but couldn't find me.
    It made me shudder all the way into the woods, where I slept with a pack of wild dogs - unseen.
    I'm missing something here. Does "taking notes" mean "taking money"? The husband wants her outside so she goes outside? She was unseen in the woods the way the women ignored (or couldn't see) her in the room? Was it revenge or despair? Was she submissively (generously?) letting her husband have pleasure that she could no longer provide? What about Iris?
  • Here's the start and finish of "All Beasts Are People" -
    Gunning it up the hill, because the brakes were shot, I was a cartoon girl in a cartoon car. Halfway up, I was still pregnant, driving the ragged car that growled with hunger when I pressed the pedal
    "Did I believe in beasts?" he asked.
    "Yes," I said. "Hitler, of course. All beasts are people."
    The doctor held up two twigs. One was me and the other looked like my twin. The other me was a stronger specimen, not yet bent or ruined.
  • Again, lots of ideas here, but too fragmented for me.

There are neat comparisons - "His new car basked in the sun, like a photographer's model taking a rest", (p.93); "There is always a loyalty factor, they say, like a thread hanging from your skirt, or pocket lint. Where does it come from?", p.108. Overall the book kept me interested.

"Weasel" has typos - "She says it to herself, roles it around"; "the parent's had it put down". There's also a typo in "Her Own Music" - "you're cock".

Other reviews

  • Niles Reddick
  • Charmaine Wilkerson (She drops you right into a scene as though you were already in the thick of conversation with the narrator, throwing you a seemingly mundane line or bringing up a commonplace situation ... Then she trips you. She knocks you flat with the poetry of a phrase ... or an uncomfortably frank observation. ... Difficult relationships, awkward sex, loneliness, coercion, illness and love in various forms. ... In several of these tales, characters slip between the thrill and the abyss, unkindness and humanity, all in one or two pages.)
  • Julia Tagliere (this fascinating collection does not present an easily discernible underlying thread, at least in terms of subject matter. ... Many of the pieces do, however, share a unique emotional theme: loss—not past loss or current, but rather, anticipated.)
  • Barbara Renel (“Barista” (Best Small Fictions, 2018) is an extraordinary story. )

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