GHOSTLY DEMARCATIONS: Stories
Sagging Meniscus Press
$19.95 trade paper, available now
The Publisher Says: Everyone is constantly admonishing our narrator to keep quiet: "You're full of bull hockey, college boy...Shut up and drink your beer." Or, "'Shut up,' Michelle replied. 'Shut up,' Michelle repeated." Or, "Don't look up. At least don't shout when you do. She's here, on the balcony." Or, "'Shit.' Sarah spit this out like a too-hot cinnamon ball, pulled me off the dental chair, and led me to the closet with the skeleton, shushing me with her fingers." Or, "Hush, be still. Tacete, tacete." Everyone admonishes him, when all he wants to do is shout the wonders, the horrors, the terrors that he and his older adoptive brother Galen face as one spiritual incursion after another manifests in their lives, moving from trickster poltergeists to forlornly wandering ghosts to intent fetches to avenging revenants. Perhaps, instead of admonishing him, everyone would do better to heed his early, youthful deliberation: "I never heard his voice again after that night. If we humans could always recognize the last words we were ever to hear from each person we knew or even met, our lives would perch as fragile indeed, gathering tragedy every listening moment to lean over a dark cellar of dark farewells."
THE PUBLISHER SENT ME A REVIEW COPY AT MY REQUEST. THANK YOU.
My Review: A further disclaimer: I've known Joe for over a quarter century. As he will somewhat sniffily tell you, this has never stopped me from letting him have it with both barrels if he dares to do less than his best. So, everybody clear on who did what to whom? Good. Let's begin:
This is a storytelling format that I'm fond of, the linked short-story collection or "novel in stories." Joe plays with identity in a lot of his fiction, and this format allows the issue to develop without ever making its presence feel forced.
As is my wont, I will use the time-honored and very efficient Bryce Method to view the stories as they come.
Galen's Mountain Child starts right off with creepy hillbilly ghosties of abandoned burned-alive kids, mothers without maternal instincts, and *retch* kittens.
His mom had been dating men starting the year after Galen's dad died and she hadn't been the gospel of kindness. Or maybe she was the gospel to the men, but not even the epistle to Galen.True voice, I'm old enough to have heard exactly those locutions from older relatives. 4 stars
I Am the Egg
Madonna on a Country Road
The Mansion, the Chandelier, and the Belle
A Red Phase
Tit for Tat
The Perfect Ghost Story, Plus One
The Widow with the Hookah
I'll Be Home for Christmas
Louie, Louie and the Blonde Hippie
Ms. Sylvia's Home Care