Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space

Read 4/17/12 - 4/18/12
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended to Bizarro Fiction newbies
Pgs: 91
Publisher: Eraserhead Press

What the world needs now.. is more strange fiction! Thank goodness for Rose O'Keefe and her "New Bizarro Author Series", which sort of equates to the shallow end of a really long, really deep, really freaky pool... It's the perfect, low risk way for a publisher - and curious reader - to dip their toes in the murky waters of debut bizarro fiction without having to take the full-out plunge.

For the uninitiated, Bizarro fiction has its roots traced back to Eraserhead Press. True visionaries of the sick and twisted, their fiction is a combination of the absurd and the grotesque, with a little satire thrown in for good measure. The interesting thing with Bizarro fiction is how flexible it is. Turn up the dial on the absurd and you'll probably get something like The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island. Stir in a good helping of the grotesque and you might end up with something along the lines of The Baby Jesus Butt Plug. (You totally just clicked on those links, didn't you? You were dying to see what those books were about! For the record, I have not read either of these.)

And yeah, I realize that I am probably not doing S.D Foster and his collection of flash fiction/short stories any justice at all by linking to weird literature like that. But I do have a reason for it. And it is this. Not all Bizarro fiction is made up of the things you find in hallucinatory nightmares, or worry yourself sick over when you're stranded on the side of the road in the middle of a moonless night. Some of it is actually pretty cool.

Case in point: A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space. This collection is one helluva interesting little book. Contained within these 23 stories, you will find some of the most approachable bizarro fiction this genre has to offer. S.D. Foster's fictional shorts offer up twisted perspectives and completely implausible yet highly intriguing and emotionally stirring situations.

Though the stories are short, they pack a lasting punch and chew at you for long moments after... I mean, how often do you hear the life story of a Clementine? Or get to know the extremely vain antics of a man who rips his head from his very shoulders when it begins to age on him?

Some of my favorite stories were told from the most unique and emotionally poignant points of view. There's The Trial of Ted - which follows the unfortunate life of a stuffed teddy bear after his young owner unknowingly drops him in the woods. Unbreakable - the story of a doll who is purchased to comfort a sick little girl during her last few months. Subsidence details the trials and tribulations of marrying a tree. An aging, mutated monster comes to terms with the fact that he must make way for an up-and-coming youth by banishing himself to an abandoned town in Slothra. And Mr. Rat demonstrates how you can take the rat out of the sewer but can't take the sewer out of the rat.

Each story is a parable or fable of sorts, with subtle warnings hiding between the lines. Don't place beauty before personality. Loneliness is sometimes preferable to poor company. Sometimes, being overprotective can cause more damage to someone than if you hadn't protected them at all. Be happy with what you have because you'll never be happy with what you get. Death comes for all of us, eventually.

Though his stories appear small on the surface, and typically feature non-human characters, there's something extremely human about each one of them. Or maybe I am just a sad ole sap for the emotionally tormented and tortured?

This book belongs in the hands of readers who are tired of reading the same ole, same ole. Forget that this is a debut author, because his writing doesn't read like one. Forget that it's associated with one of the most misunderstood genres in the industry. Forget that you might not be a fan of short stories. Just remember that TNBBC told you to go out and grab this sucker and get lost within its pages asap. Have I steered you wrong yet?!

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