21 February 2008

Richard's "Memorial Day"

This is the last of the stories in Charity, a collection which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is a shame that he has not published more. His writing is very much of a Southern Gothic cast, but it's neat to see how he plays with both elements (Southern, Gothic) of that tradition using his own particular style. Sometimes, one is reminded of other authors, from Melville to Lovecraft, but always told in Richard's great style. If he ever chose to write horror stories, I would be eager to read them.

Though Death himself makes an appearance in "Memorial Day," it is not a horror story. It is, like a lot of Richard's stories, a story of people making do in marginal circumstances. For several days, a little boy shoos Death away from the little house where his brother lies sick, delirious. The local medicine woman requests a special ingredient to cure the brother, so the boy weaves a basket and goes out to fetch it. The end, surprising, ironic, bittersweet is like something out of O Henry, or at least a twisted version of said author.

20 February 2008

Richard's "Tunga Tuggo, Lingua Dingua"

This is the story of two brothers out looking for the remains of their father, who has disappeared and is believed dead. One thing I really like about Richard's style is his skill at creating a feeling of place, one he has in common with my some of my favorite horror authors. Just as Lovecraft has his haunted New England and Ligotti's stories often seem to take place in a rust belt where decay has infested everything, Richard's vision of southern oceanside towns captures a sense of decadance that is both realistic and mythic. Ironically enough, though not a horror story, the brothers' adventure does end on a somewhat Lovecraftian note.

19 February 2008

Richard's "Plymouth Rock"

"Plymouth Rock" is the story of a two brothers at their parent's house for Thanksgiving Dinner. The narrator is something of a loser, but his brother, who appears to have been something of a bully, is with the secret service. Nothing much happens, but it makes for an entertaining blend of politics and family discord.

18 February 2008

Richard's "Charity"

The story is superficially similar to "The Birds for Christmas" since both deal with abandoned children in pediatric wards. However, "Charity" really ramps up the surrealism with its stranger assortment of fellow inmates and rather nightmarish, if oddly funny, conclusion. Though it's well-written, I think I prefered "Birds" with it's more bittersweet conclusion.

05 February 2008

Richard's "Charming 1 br" and "Never in this World"

As I tend to do way too often, I've fallen behind on blogging these stories and am now working on getting caught up. After these two, I hope to have all the posts up by next Friday.

The first story's full title is "Charming 1br., fr. dr. wndws, quiet, safe. Fee." which is probably meant ironically since it is a story of an insomniac living in a seedy neighborhood who watches some gangsters as they leave a nearby restaurant. Richard has a way of making the smallest things seem major. Though brief, there's a nice sense of a greater story going on.

"Never in this World" is about a boy and a girl out on a date. The boy is trying to tell ghost stories to get the girl in an amorous mood, without much success. Finally, he tells her two rather unique ghost stories, and though it is unclear whether they have the desired effect, the stories seem to reach out to a greater reality, towards the importance of memory and compassion.

04 February 2008

Richards "Fun at the Beach"

This story's opening seems particularly quote-worthy:

Got a letter from a girl said we ought to get together before her
husband gets parole. Said maybe we could rent another bungalow down at Big
Bill's Beach Cabanas like last time, maybe steam up some shrimp and suck out the
heads, maybe break a box of old 45s against the walls, the tequila-drinking
things, things like me doing it to her from behind with her leaning out the
bungalow window whistling at sailors on the boardwalk, what did I think?
I wrote back and said, Do I know you?

After a few more of these exchanges, the girl shows up, husband in tow. Though this story--as with most of the stories in the collection--is low on plot, I loved the way Richard sketches out this strange little corner of the Florida coast, giving a good sense of a town that manages to be simultaneously backwater and touristy. (It reminds me of Melville's line that "true places" are not to be found on any map.)

01 February 2008

Richard's "Where Blue is Blue" & "The Birds for Christmas"

Both of these were pretty short so I figured I'd just read/review both of them.

"Where Blue is Blue" has a pretty gruesome beginning that sneaks up on you like a sick joke. And it has an equally surprising ending that somehow manages to be both gruesome and transcendent. Along the way, it tells an interesting story about the feeding of beasts, the male gaze, and the similarities between art and detective work. I like to be surprised, even a little shocked, by a good short story and this one achieves it well.

"The Birds for Christmas" is about two boys in a hospital/orphanage at Christmastime. It's a pretty bleak and depressing setting with overtones of horror. Yet it's also funny and has a rather sweet turn at the end, and I thought Richard's ability to give voice to the young protagonist is dead-on.