In this choice collection of esoteric stories, the reader is treated to some truly terrific examples of short form fiction. The fact that you must pack your dictionary in order to navigate its loquacious literary terrain is a small price to pay.
In the very first story, for example, we meet the first of author Peter Quinones’ quirky characters, a stunning young dispute resolutions specialist who introduces the concept of proxemics to us as she boldly boffs her fifty-something lover in his posh Big Apple apartment with the drop-dead views. Don’t know what proxemics are? Not to worry. It’s way secondary to enjoyment of the vignette, which, like so many of these tiny tales, leaves the reader hungry for more.
In another story, a thoroughly likeable character with the unlikely name of Dixie Demando fantasizes each day as she commutes to work on the Staten Island Ferry about a young man she knows only as The Boy. She rehearses opening lines for their fated first meeting — a fait accompli, as far as she’s concerned — while making memos on her cell phone about her newest character-building exercise: writing letters to famous dead people. Oh, and the big word to take away from this tale is mithridate, which apparently means to seek protection from or guard against — something Dixie needs to do with regard to her irresponsible sister just in from the West Coast.
These stories are wildly inventive and bursting with the brand of raw humanity found nowhere but on the streets and in the subways of New York City. Indeed, anyone who loves Manhattan will get a vicarious thrill through the author’s encyclopedic knowledge of the great metropolis’ lesser-known byways and offbeat haunts.
The writing is first-rate as well. Witness this succinct summary of one principal player:
“Plowfinger was a silver ponytail with fingernails about a month beyond the clipping limit that most of us would categorize as comfortable, and a black and red checked lumberjack shirt.”
Each story is a fresh foray into the short fiction form. The plotlines are solid and the characters are cunningly wrought to deliver maximum impact.
Consider, if you will, the chapter entitled “Postmodern Deconstruction Madhouse (I),” in which no fewer than 27 pages are devoted to “Explorations of the one sentence short story.” This clever collection of story starters include the following lines that truly titillate:
“A lover who tells you they don’t care about money will lie to you about everything else as well.”
“We spend one seventh of our lives on Tuesdays.”
“Breaking boldly, forthrightly, with established traditions, Jack Baldi created new frameworks and perspectives hitherto unavailable to the hula hoop merchant.”
And, our personal favorite:
“She has the kind of face a caricaturist can draw perfectly with three lines and a swoosh.”
Finally, there is the curious account of the posturing art and film critic who spends much of his time in the story either suffering from the palpitating nearness of a fellow gym-goer, or analyzing the relative merits of Sam Peckinpah films ad nauseum. Still, the author, speaking through his erudite character, manages to channel John Updike to best advantage when he recalls for the reader one of the literary great’s most underappreciated character descriptions: “Brent, a pleasant enough, rapid-speaking fellow (had) the clammy white skin of the library-bound and the stiff beige hair of a shaving brush…”
Ah, so much rich fictional fodder, so little time.
If you’re a serious writer — or ever want to be — there is much to learn from and admire in this eclectic collection. The author’s ability to deftly place his outre protagonists in unexpected circumstances never fails to delight, entertain and — through the deliberate use of fifty-cent, multisyllabic modifiers — even educate the reader along the way.
Five-plus stars to Postmodern Deconstruction Madhouse. It dares to delve into a difficult literary form, and does so with deceptive ease and skill.