The Things We Do for Women

Seth Johnson. Whitepoint Press (Ingram, dist.), $18 (219p) ISBN 978-0-615-84585-2
Johnson’s debut collection of linked stories is an attempt at Carver-like dirty realism that mostly falls flat. The author leaves the stories, set in contemporary Kentucky, virtually free of narrative arc or climax; they simply progress and then end. In the title story, a man adopts a Doberman, but the dog turns out to be unruly and has to be returned. In “The Birth,” a man “on the run” meets an alcoholic, wheelchair-bound woman and later finds himself witness to the birth of a litter of puppies. In “Clean White Sheets,” two couples get drunk and play Pictionary. (The title refers not to bedsheets but to the loose-leaf paper used in the game.) “You’ve Got to Live a Little” is told from the viewpoint of a supercilious middle-management type. The functional prose rarely attempts to heighten the mundane proceedings, but occasionally Johnson’s sentences are downright peculiar: “His eyes would shift to the introduction of a new bulb switched on,” and “ ‘Whatever,’ Ashley said, her lips going pink in the taut.” The close attention Johnson pays to the texture of everyday experience shows a promise that he will hopefully fulfill in future efforts. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/16/2013
Genre: Fiction
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