Today’s review is brought to you by the letter “S” as in “Short Story!” And…in keeping with the theme of “Short & Sweet” let’s just get right down to business. (Ok, maybe it’s less “theme” related and more “there’s a pizza waiting for me in the other room” related.) Anyways…
“Elephant” by Jim Breslin
In this debut collection of stories, Jim Breslin explores the soul of suburbia; the disenfranchised and the desperate. The characters in these twenty-one stories struggle to mend relationships and find redemption. Sometimes funny, often sad, the unsettling stories in Elephant portray the suburban landscape of loneliness and hope.
A man is tempted by memories of his past life after his drunk ex-wife pays a surprise visit. A couple wrestles with their fruitless attempts to have children. An eccentric homeowner issues a series of comical concerns to his lawn care company. A young woman discovers her boyfriend has placed a Craigslist ad seeking a three-way. A husband tests the reciprocity of his wife’s love only to find himself in the throes of a dangerous free fall.
Short stories, (unlike novels) take a very distinct “brand” (I guess you can say) of author to write them. (The same (if you are curious) can be said for the people who read (and enjoy) them.) Why? Because short stores are written as if strapped to a time bomb. While “novels” are laced with hundreds (if not thousands) of pages filled with adjectives, short stories are chopped, condensed, and (more often than not) offered up on a very blunt serving platter.
Does this mean that cohesion, (and enlightenment) cannot be achieved with so few words? Of course not, if just takes a master of manipulation to do so successfully.
Who here has watched the film “The Adjustment Bureau?” How about “Keith?” Did you know that both of these movies were based on short stories? No? (Yay me for teaching you something today.)
These are just 2 examples of short story brilliance, AND…evidence to the fact that it does not take a million words to tell a good story. It simply takes focus.
This is the problem I had with Mr. Breslin’s stories. No focus. While some of them were good (for example: Elephant, and We’re Not Dog People) others felt like interrupted thoughts. Not all authors are the same (I’m no where near stupid enough to believe this) and each has their own unique writing style, but I think it is very important for authors not to get too wrapped up in their own prosaic thoughts when trying to get a point across. (Hmmm, that sounded a bit harsh. Let me try again.) Though the writing was good, (even impressive in parts) and yes…the stories did indeed make you think, (which I believe to be Breslin’s main initiative in writing them to begin with) overall they were a tad TOO abstract. Which (I’m sorry to say) may actually have an adverse reaction and PUSH “causal readers” away instead of drawing them IN.
If you are going to tell a story, even a short one, you must make sure it is still a story.
Now, before you get your La Perla panties in a wad, let me make one thing very clear. I am NOT opposed to short stories. I am not opposed to literature that evokes reflection, or appreciation of self-worth. What I’m not keen on is the illusion of plots.
So, here is where I stand… I have read better, I have read worse, but if it were up to me… I would fill my lunch hour with something more filling and less fluffy.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: Sometimes good things come in small packages and sometimes it’s just a pair of socks from your Aunt Hilda.
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(3/5) <–If you are curious why the 3… I LOVE the cover art & feel that it deserves a little credit. Otherwise…I would have gone with a 2.5
Note: In case you are interested… “The Adjustment Bureau” is based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K Dick and “Keith” is based of a short story (of the same name) by Ron Carlson, found in his anthology “The Hotel Eden.”