If You [ ]: Fabula, Fantasy, F**kery, Hope

Colin Fleming. Dzanc, $16.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-950539-21-5
Fleming’s fresh new collection (after Meatheads Say the Realest Things) comprises various voices with an overarching erudition, making the whole of the 18 stories greater than the sum of its parts. A relaxed, meandering bro persona is the most prominent. “A Deuce Cross” makes for a surprisingly tender coming-of-age story about brotherly love and a passion for the Beatles. In “Rimers Boots,” the protagonist works a gritty summer job that pushes him toward an artist’s life. “The Effect of Gravity upon the Tub” offers a change of pace, with a courtly, Victorian flavor and a juicily macabre plot. Several of the shorter pieces start with a clever conceit and end abruptly, feeling like palate cleansers between the longer, shaggier works. “My Death Tie” captures a funereal feeling with short, punchy sentences. “Brackets” flirts with free verse in its playful word placement and typography. “The Ghosts in the Alley, the Ghosts in the Wall” seems particularly apt for the Covid-19 era, with its isolated protagonist haunted by carnal fears that become more elaborate as he dwells on them. Throughout, Fleming maintains a mischievous sense of self-deprecation and perspective, and zeroes in on pitch perfect words (in “Brackets,” vermin are described as “rapscallions... entering in droves”). Not everything is fully realized, but it’s always smart and worth sinking into. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 09/14/2021
Release date: 01/01/2022
Genre: Fiction
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