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MochaMike

MochaMike

Currently reading

Swann's Way
Marcel Proust, Lydia Davis
Mating
Norman Rush
The Unknown University
Roberto Bolaño, Laura Healy
Postmodern Belief: American Literature and Religion since 1960 (20/21)
Amy Hungerford
The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
James Wood
The Houses of Children - Coleman Dowell

In a scene from one of the stories a visiting aunt waits to see her nephew in a mental hospital, this sentence: “She got to the hospital early and waited for Johnny in the shabby room with the coverless magazines and the family groups who seemed, like the magazines, to have been badly used and left with their contents exposed.” Very nice. Dowell works a sentence as well as anyone. Some of these stories stand out, at least to me: Singing in the Clump, The Great Godalmighty Bird, In the Mood, and the incredible, uniquely told The Silver Swanne.

The Houses of Children

Stories of childhood, family, and the places we call home.

Wool Tea—A young boy, the Kid, and his older brother each have strong feelings for the notorious Willie T (Wool Tea)—someone whose name, when mentioned, makes parents and other adults apoplectic. What comes around, goes around.

{{{subliminal suggestion—Read Too Much Flesh and Jabez}}}

Singing in the Clump—A family and friends learn, belatedly, the importance of their son, brother, and friend—Fatty—who sings a song of his own. Wow.

{{{subliminal suggestion—Read Too Much Flesh and Jabez}}}

Writings on a Cave Wall—A young boy flees his family, clan, and their meat-eating tradition in favor of recording the clan’s activity on the walls of a cave and becoming a special sort of vegetarian…with a kicker.

{{{subliminal suggestion—Read Too Much Flesh and Jabez}}}

My Father Was a River—A 12-year-old boy insinuates himself between his parents creating a sensual Oedipal flip.

{{{subliminal suggestion—Read Too Much Flesh and Jabez}}}

Ham’s Gift—Ham, at age 14, realizes that something about him is special and his own, flees the family that took him in as an abandoned infant but never loved, and goes in pursuit of the visions and communication from the gold mountains.

{{{ Too Much Flesh and Jabez}}}

Mrs. Hackett—A woman of indeterminate age has an episode which sends her mind back to her childhood and leaves her in the care of a spiteful daughter.

{{{ Too Much Flesh and Jabez}}}

The Moon, the Owl, My Sister—A young dreamer contemplates family, life, and art…a young dreamer…a young … dreamer.

{{{ Too Much Flesh and Jabez}}}

The Great Godalmighty Bird—A recollection of a childhood, the love of a grandmother, and the unforgiving reaction to what’s been seen without being acknowledged.

{{{ Too Much Flesh and Jabez}}}

The Consequences of Breath

I Envy You Your Great Adventure—Holy shit! Artistic lovers grow apart and together as one (literally) falls apart and hopes (prays?) for the other’s success. A bizarro/fantasy/love story.

{{{ Too Much Flesh and Jabez}}}

If Beggars Were Horses—Nuptial reluctance, if not incapability, and maternal scrutiny lead to lives devoid of intimacy and neighborliness. Odd. Odd. Odd.

{{{Too Much Flesh }}}

Cancer—A mature couple share an intimate moment while he considers the state of the country, she writes to estranged relatives, and they each consider his cancer.

{{{Too Much Flesh}}}

In the Mood—The reunion of two mature sisters triggers long-buried jealousies in the light of a nephew/son’s battle with what would likely now be called PTSD.

{{{Too Much Flesh}}}

City Sundays —A young man wanders the ethnic markets of NYC taking on the ethnicities of each shop he enters.

{{{Too Much Flesh}}}

The Silver Swanne—In revolving, dated ‘chapters’ of events echoing through each, Vilet encounters his demon in 1770 while the author of that story encounters his demon in the 1840 while another man encounters a swan trapped on his balcony in 1980. Meta-fictional extravaganza; one of the best in the collection.

{{{Jabez}}}

By the way, if you like Dowell’s short stories, or if you’re of a mind to, you might prefer something meatier, so to speak, consider Too Much Flesh and Jabez and don’t go gawk too closely at that cover, ya perv.

5 stars seems excessive, while 4 seems an undervaluing. Rock, meet Hardplace.