The Great American Songbook

Sam Allingham. A Strange Object, $14.95 trade paper (182p) ISBN 978-0-9892759-9-6
The title of this debut story collection makes reference to a fluid but generally agreed upon canon of songs that defines a particular, early 20th-century American sensibility. Allingham's aim is presumably the same: to build a mood, a perception of the world, with these disparate and inscrutable but well-executed stories. In the first and last tales, Allingham gives readers insider information, not all of it pleasant, on the beloved musical duo Rodgers and Hart ("Rodgers and Hart"), and with verve speaks in the exasperated voice of famous big-band clarinetist Artie Shaw ("The Great American Songbook"). That his flawed narrators are unreliable is indisputable, and no doubt deliberate. Several other stories in the middle section fill in with explorations of all the weird ways Americans are drawn to one another, how they define themselves in relation to those they love or loathe, and the proverbial ties that bind. All are strange and melancholy. "Bar Joke, Arizona" features all manner of talking creatures, as absurd as the infamous cantina scene in Star Wars. "There isn't really a good end to the story," a duck says, and one is hard pressed to disagree; perhaps instead of looking for a neat conclusion, it's best to simply celebrate the author's considerable way with words. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/17/2016
Release date: 11/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-64605-001-7
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