The Universe in Miniature in Miniature

Patrick Somerville, Featherproof (PGW, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-9825808-1-3
In "The Machine of Understanding Other People," the novella that concludes this marvelous set of loosely connected stories, the main character is bequeathed a helmet that enables him entry into the minds of others. Perhaps Somerville (The Cradle) had access to such a device as he crafted his wide-ranging yet wonderfully authentic narrators. Several stories offer intimate access into seemingly real life—a teenager nurses a crush on a teacher as her parents separate, a man recalls a friendly relationship with long-ago proprietors of his corner store—but Somerville's originality shines most when palpably human characters navigate mind-bending scenarios. Students at the School of Surreal Thought and Design are consumed by their vaguely artistic projects but have no instructors, classes, or campus; a new couple faces the aftermath of the end of Earth's orbit yet continue their mundane squabbles ("I was mad and she said, ‘The world ended,' and I said, ‘That's not the point.'"). These densely layered tales invite multiple readings, but even a glance uncovers profound human connection beneath Somerville's often whimsical surface. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/10/2011
Release date: 11/01/2010
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