TL;DR --> There are two great stories in here. Would and am recommending people buy this book without serious reservations.
I haven't looked this fTL;DR --> There are two great stories in here. Would and am recommending people buy this book without serious reservations.
I haven't looked this forward to a book in a long time—I think because fiction is precisely what I wish people like Josh Gibbs did more of. I wasn't disappointed. The collection is uneven, but respectably: the first two stories are the weakest and the two middle ones are the best. There was a surprising amount of typos and grammatical errors in "Good Money." EDIT: The ones I pointed out to the author have since been fixed.
Both the first story and "Good Money" suffer from acute montageau. Not enough scenes happen and what scenes do happen are hit very cursorily. What carries both the first stories through maelstroms of cleverness are the brutal and hit-or-miss funny truth bombs. The first story IMO was pretty weak, but that's because it falls on its own weight. What I mean is that the story is, through and through, a didactic piece meant to teach you its moral and make sure you know what you just got taught. Eh. I appreciate the vaguely unreal setup, but moral tales are better fitted with scenes, a la that whole vivid continuous dream thing that readers are looking to get swept along with. Anyway, I'm not here to take a steaming dump on the collection just because the first story was preachy. "Good Money" of course shares similar DNA, but there were times when I successfully got caught into the slipstream before getting diced up into bits by a paragraph of declaratives.
"It Never Entered My Mind," I thought, was going to suffer from the same problems as the first two since it dwells for so long on presenting the main character. Happily, it gets over it. I get the impression that Gibbs (hate doing the last name thing, but this is a straight-up profesh review) prefers to roost on character development over the essential elements of story. That's okay, it's almost always usually mostly interesting, even if it can feel too much like autobiographical character study. But the work pays off in "It Never Entered My Mind" and THANK GOD, scenes happen and the reader gets carried away into genuinely exciting progressions. The first two stories don't have it like this story has it. The first two maintain interest, but they don't excite and pull along. This is not just because there is a twist in "It Never Entered My Mind," which happens on the last page. It is not just because of the twist, because the twist is not the hinge point. The hinge point is the change we see in the main character because of the genuine encounter with "The Other." James Joyce said that thing about how conversations within short stories should contain revelations. I forget the quote, but anyway it happens here and it's exciting. Her encounter with Robbie is about as exciting as some conversational encounters in Dubliners. And the monologues Robbie gets are rad. Also, hearkening for a moment back to Gibb's character development, I think the best of it was the ongoing conception the MC has of her self as a lion in a windowless room. It's just a true metaphor and it went miles for me resonating with the MC, as opposed to what can happen in Gibb's fiction, where I the reader along with he the storyteller are kind of objective distant judges above the characters waiting for their shitty lives to hit the fan. Anyway, "It Never Entered My Mind" is the jewel of the collection for shizzle if we're working with what got me the most pumped to see what would happen next.
"Smoke" is okay.
"Blasphemers" is definitely the best story of the collection and props for not making it the first story. The most happens on the story level, the setting is fantastic without being this forced gimmick maintained by insecure similes that are meant to prove how the author is not using anachronisms or whatever. There is one of those early on about a wheel, but it gets a pass. There is so much I love about this story. I love the monologues, I love the historical color, I love how honest the depiction of religious people is. The Christians in it are real Christians. I believe what I see and the pagans are real pagans. I don't have much concrete to say about this story, because I was dreaming for most of it—and for this reason, I think it's the most successful of the bunch. The monologue the father makes, desperately trying to convince his son to take his grandchild to the temple of Asclepius, is extremely interesting. But also this story contains everyone's favorite archetype. I don't know what TV Trope best captures the trope as found here, but it's the Melchizedek/Tom Bombadil/Mystery Man/Offscreen Weirdo. The Holy Fool. What the blasphemer says about the demons was genuinely disturbing to me as a reader. I think I even said out loud, "Oh, creepy." Also important to point out that this story contains and fights for all that has to be affirmed in order to keep the fires of hope alive. So thank you.
"Zeitgeist" is decent propaganda, but it smelled too much like the "Waiting for Godot" set-up, which I hate. Sorry for not spending more time unpacking this critique. I don't think it's bad, but I do think that short plays like this with elements like The Tree are almost never good. It's just not a good form. The only thing I appreciate about plays like this is the challenges of concision, in which case there shouldn't be single atomic elements danced around the whole time, but instead as many elements as possible. Smalls plays should be as big as possible IMO, because the appeal is found in how much can be fit into them, not how breezy the actions and dialog are. Like a ship in a bottle. The finer the thousand elements, the better. But maybe this is just a personal taste thing. "Zeitgeist" managed to bookend the whole collection by more didacticism. It felt like a seedling Peter Kreeft dialog that refused to admit what it was actually about. Not trying to be harsh here, and reviews can be reviewed. But I don't have a lot of time to fine-tune these comments. It's not like I'm publishing a book or anything....more
Has made it on my list of personal favorites, because I feel Alasdair Gray and I are fairly similar and produce fairly similar work: choppy, inconsistHas made it on my list of personal favorites, because I feel Alasdair Gray and I are fairly similar and produce fairly similar work: choppy, inconsistent, surreal, autobiographical, highly-structured, fabulist, and an almost deliberately botched ending. Still, I love it. ...more