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The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility
Through seven intertwined stories set in a small town called Springlake, Florida, during the years surrounding the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this compelling novel depicts the violent and noble beginnings of the end of racially based inequalities. Seven white Americans deal with integration, some with profound grace and decency, some with basest greed and stupidity. Yet even the store owner who thinks only about the profitability, and not the consequences, in selling handguns during this time of unrest gives readers a glimpse into a tense, confusing, yet profound time in American history.
Through oblique references to one another, the stories keep us motivated to tie together loose storylines. Katie Franklin inspires her children through the simple act of drinking coffee at a certain time and place, with a certain audience. Reverend Phillips creates a haven for the homeless, never realizing the eventual consequence to his own life. An innocuous cliffhanger in a chapter entitled “Business” becomes a horrifying and compelling revelation at the very end of the final chapter.
Perhaps best is the expressed belief that humans can embrace and support one another despite their differences. As Reverend Phillips observes while waiting in a hospital with two families, black and white, to see if a young man will live: “Two families of different races were joined at a time of crisis. If it could happen here, it could happen throughout our country as well.” The stories acknowledge the dangerous power of ignorance and prejudice, but do much more to highlight human bravery, thoughtfulness, and caring. This optimism, the excellent story-telling, and the well-wrought characters all combine to make the book an interesting and inspiring read.—C.CRENSHAW • 6/1/13
by Brent Robison
Artwork by Wendy Drolma
Bliss Plot Press
194 pages, paperback
This poignant collection of interwoven short stories yearns for true interconnectedness even while expressing the intense loneliness inherent to human individuality. In “The Handful of Pebbles,” psychologist and writer Gerald Bronson explains the central metaphor and theme of the collection: “Think of reality as a vast field of vibrating energy, a musical ocean, in which people and things and events — everything since before the dawn of history — each is a little flicker that springs up for a moment, a note or riff that gets our attention before it sinks back into the field. It’s a giant symphony that like all things musical repeats itself, explore s variations on themes.”
The musical metaphor relating life to a cohesive symphony contrasts with each character’s apparent aloneness. A character named Harold always wanted to believe “in the big One, our ultimate indivisibility,” but then declares “What a putz.” So, even as events such as a young man’s car crash are related from various characters’ points of view, the characters themselves remain unaware of the connections. Yet for readers, the events become richer through each rendition, as if there indeed might be an ever ungraspable meaning in everyday traumas and ordinary joys.
This is a beautifully written, thoughtful collection well worth reading.—C.CRENSHAW
by Paul McComas
472 pages, paperback
Ordinarily, this type of book would be a recipe for disaster. It’s a mix of genres (horror, sci-fi, dark comedy, etc.); includes songs, novel excerpts, and screenplays; features stories written with other authors (including William F. Nolan of Logan’s Run fame); and has commentary for almost every piece in it. Again, a recipe for disaster … except, somehow, it’s not. In fact, Unforgettable is truly just as its title promises.
Author Paul McComas has been writing since he was a young boy (some of his youthful stories are included here), and his love of the art is apparent in every piece in this book. His commentary preceding each work is a delight as well, helping you feel like you really are getting to know the author.
Not every story is a winner, and not all will be to your liking, but I predict you will enjoy the majority of them. (“Malfeasance” is shudder-inducing and very timely, and “The Rail” will haunt you.) Some are disturbing; some are genuinely funny or touching. All of them show imagination and skill, making this book one of the best collections of 2011. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the Logan’s Run stories in it.—D. BRUNELL • 2/1/13
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