Apocalypse fiction! What was I thinking? I placed a hold on Ravenna Gets (M) by Tony Burgess after it won the 2011 Relit Award for Short Stories.
The stories are quite violent and end rather abruptly, with corpses and mayhem strewn throughout. At first, I just sort of shook my head in confusion after each entry. It seemed strange to me, that just as I was getting intrigued by a character or plotline, the story was over! But as I went along, I totally got into the groove of this book. I guess I just embraced the strangeness of the reading experience – as one character died, I moved on to the next. Most books don’t usually work this way.
The writing is top notch with great descriptions of both people and places. This was the major appeal for me, especially since the author seemingly has such a quirky and skewed perception of the world.
Excerpt from the story 23 Pine Street:
“The browns in here all push out, like fat men’s tongues, over the edge and lay on the lip. Brown broadloom badly laid over boards and rising at the walls. Big meaty throws piled on the brown arms of a couch lying – half-hiding, really – against the sandy wall. Tom enters in from the cold, he is almost taller than the room so has to be seen from below. He presses a beetle of a cell phone into his fat chest pocket. Then he rubs his white chin with the back of his red oyster hand. A tear lands in a ladybug he imagines crawling between his knuckles. He looks for a second at the tear. It runs a crease and disappears. Big man’s tears. Big man crying. Tom holds his chin as he cries. He pushes back on his teeth whenever emotion bucks them forward. He puts out his other hand to feel where he’ll sit if he has to. A car door. Tom breathes with his mouth wide open, then holds the air in.“
As with most short stories, the pacing is relatively brisk and the character development is limited. I’m still not quite sure what he book is about, but I was left wanting more. More stories, more characters and more mayhem!
“…out on the edge and experimental to the point of reader-confusion, but surprisingly alluring. When taking a reader to the cliff edge, then the writing must be as enticing as chocolate even if the story smells bad. I don’t get it and I didn’t enjoy it, but I couldn’t look away: This poetic, fast-flying nihilistic narrative of carnage is well done.” – Globe & Mail
Recommended for adventurous readers.