The Taste of Penny: Stories

Jeff Parker, Author . Dzanc $16.95 (172p) ISBN 978-0-9825204-4-4

Ten dark, suspenseful, and tightly wound stories teeter on the edge of catastrophe and the surreal piecing-back-together of life afterwards. Parker (Ovenman ) tosses his characters into some form of peril, whether physical—like the narrator of “Our Cause,” who loses the tip of his tongue—or emotional, like the jingoistic American in “The Boy and the Colgante,” who erects a giant illuminated American flag in front of his house in the heart of “French redneck” Quebec. Parker's characters are disfigured or pitiable—one weathers guilt and emotional torture while paralyzed in a wheelchair, one gnaws at his fingers and attempts to excrete a swallowed penny, one stands in line outside the house where his ex-girlfriend is interviewing potential new boyfriends. Parker's prose is concise and quirky, packed with unexpected turns (“It's like yak butter or meat jelly,” says one character. “You don't know exactly what it is but you know it's there”), and aside from the few moments when Parker gets too clever for his own good (as with the unnecessarily obscure “The Briefcase of the Pregnant Spylady”), these stories are haunting and constantly surprising. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/22/2010
Release date: 06/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 130 pages - 978-0-9812488-1-3
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