May 17, 2011

hidden monkey - Crisp by R.W. Gray

Oh monkey, why do you hide from me?

Is it my breath?


Today's hidden monkey:

Crisp (NeWest Press, 2010)
by R.W. Gray

the hidden monkey plot: Well, these are short stories, so there is no plot per se (however, there is a perfect excuse to use the phrase per se). But to give you a taste of their contents: "Waves" is an exquisite glimpse into a one-night stand with a whale trainer; "Crisp" concerns two brothers whose father is burning eternally in a car fire while their mother swells to bursting inside their house; "Sunflowers" is a breathtakingly sweet tale of an old woman's infatuation with the new young priest of her church; "Wabi Sabi" maps out a wife's attempts to mold and whittle her fisherman husband into a more pleasing form.

why is this monkey hidden? Short stories are classically a harder sell for audiences, and unless a collection catches fire (or awards glory), they more often than not gather dust on the shelves. I really only became aware of Gray's collection after the two of us joined forces in a Writers' Circle event out here in Fredericton. Crisp may yet gather a larger audience, however, as its recent nomination for the Danuta Gleed Award certainly provides it with an extra oomph.

what does the shelf monkey think? I'm a big fan of magic realism, when done correctly, and Crisp has more than its fair share. Witness this small segment of "Wabi Sabi" after the husband has come home and destroyed his wife's pottery:
In the crisp morning air, she reached out with her two hands and placed them around his ridged and bent-to-purpose neck. She began again, kind, the way she was with flawed clay. Smaller clumps of him fell to the porch as she worked out the impurities, the air bubbles.
In the morning she awoke to peaches in the air, and found him in the kitchen making impressionistic waffles, a wounded apology on his lips. He was smaller now, shorter than her, and several kinds of sorry.
That's the kind of imagination I love, the ability to combine the fantastic with the humdrum ordinariness of life. In Crisp, no one questions how it is a woman can continually whittle a man into something new, how a fire can never be extinguished, why a trailer should suddenly up and slowly (oh so slowly) roll to the ocean and no one thinks to stop it. Beyond this, Crisp is a revelatory collection, delicate in execution and brutal in impact. Gray has a light touch, almost invisible, and his stories dance across the page even as they leave indelible impressions in the mind. Like the best short story writers, Gray understands the importance of being concise, of never wasting a word. His characters are all yearning for something, something beyond their control; love, or stability, or silence, or sanity.

hidden monkey verdict: this monkey shouldn't stay hidden. come out, little monkey, don't be scared

1 comment:

Wanda said...

Hmmm, pottery ... wonder where I can sign up for classes?

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