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Friday, October 20, 2006

Short but Much Too Long

It's beginning to seem Amazon.whatevers are beginning to conveniently delete reviews that are not positive. I'm betting they'll say this was always their policy. But the great thing about Amazon's review system was that we could get a variety of opinions, and if the work was terrible we found out beforehand. This will only hurt Amazon. If people believe they are skewing reviews only to the positive then we won't trust them any more and will do our book buying elsewhere.

Can I ask a rhetorical question? Are people really that afraid of honesty?

I just read three books of short stories. Final tally: Two bad, One good. First up: Greetings from the Vodka Sea -- the title as well as the idea for that story is imaginative. Think of it, a sea of vodka at a hidden resort. Well, nothing in this book stands up to the inventive title. The stories ramble and the writing is sloppy. It's the same with Princes in Waiting, another pretty much dull and average-constructed collection of stories. There's so little life in both these books. And one author has no clue how to construct sentences. He throws in comma after comma, creating sentences that are so unendingly similar and oddly fashioned that I eventually gave up the slogging. And, yes I know. They'll probably be like Joyce Carol Oates and hold a grudge and make sure I never get a break from any commitee or granting group they sit on.

Can I ask a rhetorical question? Are writers really that afraid of opinions?

Now comes Darryl Whetter's A Sharp Tooth in the Fur. He's up and down, the first couple of stories continued twice as long as I think they should have -- I am one for clarity and brevity in a story. But I persisted, having read a good review a couple of years ago in the New York Times -- if my memory serves me correctly.

Kermit is Smut is a good one however, a druggie teacher confronts the day.
Here for example:

"Class, Auster still hasn't begun, we need to talk about love. Love reminds us how life is a gamble we other wise wouldn't make.
Every day he sees how small their teeth are.

This is Whetter at his finest, positioning the collequial description next to the exquisitely observed detail. It's true sometimes the details are incorrect: No matter these are middle school kids whose teeth are already adult teeth that often appear too big for their mouths or point aimlessly beyond their lips. And it's the Knight that jumps across a chessboard, not the Bishop. Yet, we will give him extra credit for going after the the original details. What I found to be his best story is Enormous Sky White (which I would retitle to something a bit more resonating were I writing it.) A young man plants seeds in the North while his girlfrield visits Paris -- seed planting takes a variety of forms and that story alone makes the book worth its cover price.