Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Every Day There Is Something About Elephants is a Small Press Picks pick


These days in the small press, it is difficult to promote, sell, or, heck, get reviewed.

Often it's

Connections

Connections

Connections


On May 5, I hosted Beth Castrodale, author of Marion Hatley, at the soon to disappear Dire Literary Series. In our deep literary conversation, she said, she wrote reviews for Small Press Picks. So, then, I said, "If you wouldn't mind, I'd really appreciate....,"

So today the review of Every Day There Is Something About Elephants. You can read it HERE.

You can also read it, reposted, cut, and pasted below. If you want to skip that, it says that the book is captivating, delivers so much so briefly. like the best flash fiction, and has great imaginative reach, with some stories bordering on, or embodying, the surreal. 

Pretty much so said so many nice things, and captured the themes, and nuisances. Thank you, Beth!


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Every Day There Is Something About Elephants

Timothy Gager’s captivating new collection of flash fiction, Every Day There Is Something About Elephants, immerses us in revelatory episodes or situations from a range of lives. All the stories, even the more surreal ones, capture truths about human experience, with all its darkness, absurdity, and moments of recognition.
Like the best flash fiction, Gager’s stories deliver so much so briefly. For example, in less than a page, the story “Jack” conveys a police officer’s grief in the immediate aftermath of his wife’s murder. Lines like these movingly encapsulate the experience:
Jack has nightmares of yellow tape he can’t cross. Jack spends a lot of time on the sofa. It works like a handcuff. … “Never marry a cop,” Jack used to kid. Jack washes his creased face. He says, “Oh, God, Oh, my God.”
Other stories beautifully capture moments of recognition. In “Systematic knowledge,” the central character, Amber, has known for some time that her marriage was a mistake. “She wanted emotional attachment. She wanted someone to be involved with her in that way.” But her husband “thought more about wave-particle duality than anything else.”
An experience on a beach in Spain makes the mistake of her marriage especially—and physically—clear to Amber. When she is having trouble applying sunscreen to her back, her husband, Brad, doesn’t notice. But an appealing stranger does:
Amber imagined [him] walking over to help spread the lotion, hot and sticky between her shoulder blades and down on her neck. Amber felt her thighs weakening, while beside her, Brad, covered up in his crisp white shirt and pleated khakis, thought of duality.
“Sometimes there are things that come out of the darkness,” one of my favorite stories in the collection, brings together a series of realizations about a woman the narrator has fallen in love with, and who continues to suffer the results of having grown up in an abusive family. In passages like this one, the story captures the limits of even the deepest love:
Sometimes your stomach flops … when you drop her back home. You kiss her again and again because once you pull away the blackness that is that curtain will capture her. You fear once you pull away you will never see light again.
One thread running through the collection concerns struggles with, and consequences of, addiction. Gager writes about these difficulties perceptively, and with deep feeling.
In “How penguins break,” two lovers share “a strong common bond” of having a drinking history. But for a time they also share sobriety and a set of plastic wind-up penguins that seem to represent their connection: “When she and he wound them, they would clomp around silly and happy, lunging and bouncing toward each other on top of his bureau.”
After the woman moves away for work, the relationship suffers, and she returns to drinking. When the man visits her, offering to take care of her, the penguins come back into the story, beautifully representing the fragility of love and sobriety:
He took the penguins out of his pocket, but one of them was broken and could not be revived, while the other bounced around in its silly way but didn’t seem happy. He wished things never had to break.
“We could buy new penguins,” he said.
“I wish we could just go backwards instead,” she said.
The collection has great imaginative reach, with some stories bordering on, or embodying, the surreal. In “Rehabilitation will set you free,” an artist, Guy, runs an art rehabilitation program in a prison where he himself is an inmate, the consequence of turning to bank robbery after his career as a sculptor went bust.
Guy encourages fellow inmates to create sculptures out of leftover license plates they’d made previously, and they take up the work with enthusiasm, constructing replicas of the Twin Towers out of New York plates and a giant lobster out of Maine plates.
It’s the story’s ending that takes things in a more surreal direction. Not wanting to give it away, I’ll say that the title of the tale is more than a figure of speech, and both the title and the story as a whole speak with humor and feeling about the transformative power of making art. Like the other stories in this collection, “Rehabilitation” is just as stirring as it’s thought-provoking.
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