by Julia Bohanna
Barry Graham’s characters could
be accused of living lives of quiet desperation. Desperate they often
may be but they are predominantly vocal, violent, cynical and visceral
in their reactions toward the Little America they inhabit. Careers are
distant luxuries. Here, everyone scrapes a living. They fuck, not make
love, craving desultory blow jobs as casually as burgers and burritos.
Education, as one of the characters states, is for "pussies." Death is
ordinary; they are just grateful that
it isn’t them. Aspiration of any kind is absent: in Bad Beat, when
good fortune, they still fail at life.
This book drips with testosterone
may be appreciated more by men than women. Into the stories are dropped
hookers, strippers and itinerant women with attitude. The men who
"love" them are largely voyeurs on the make. Or at least
that’s how they appear superficially. The cleverness of
Graham’s writing is underneath this skin of dysfunctionality, we
see men who have been emotionally brutalised by their past. Partially
broken, they are defending themselves against more pain.
Men be reduced at times to the sum
bodily functions and tawdry fantasies, but there are also strong and
resonant images presented bluntly, without sentiment or pity. A scene
remembered for example, of two kittens purring on the laps of two dead
girls. Life is brief. Brutal. Fragile. Into this nihilism slips dry
humour and at times, a pinch of surrealism: This Story is Not About Ham and
Sandwiches manages to be irreverent to the reader and then
achingly poignant. Parable
Dead Rolling Snowball is delicious in its strangeness.
References to gambling were
the text. Knowing poker might have helped my understanding. But I
related to the human tragedy within All
his Chips, as an obsessive gambler destroys something
There are common themes and motifs
throughout: bad fathers, murdered dreams, crappy marriages. The
compulsion to eat fast, greasy food frequently reoccurs. Mankind,
through lust and hunger, is reduced to Freud’s primal id. Ego
weakly moderates those basic instincts now and again. Rarely does the
super-ego, the intellect, control proceedings. Graham leaves the
analysis to the reader.
There are plenty of redheads
panties and out. A proliferation of blood and accidents. Animals rarely
fare well, particularly an ungrateful rodent called Willy. The death of
two creatures in a car accident, was for me the most tenderly evoked
scene in the book. For a relatively sheltered English girl, my
sensibilities frequently took a bashing. Sometimes I had to breathe
fresh air, away from the blood, piss and spunk that Graham uses to
paint his literary canvases. Interestingly, it made those rare acts of
kindness, such a man giving a Cookie Monster toy to a homeless girl,
all the more powerful. Mostly, people are corrupt, capable of hatred
This collection is not for those
their fictional worlds pretty and life-affirming. But the smells, the
images, the nihilistic message, will haunt.
Read the title story
from this collection on Prick of the Spindle
freelance writer and journalist, Julia Bohanna was shortlisted this
year for The Asham Award and the Mslexia Short Story Competition.
Publications include Mslexia, The Lancet, The Sunday Telegraph and The
Sunday Times and the Penguin anthology, The Map of Me. She has also
been placed or won several UK-based magazine competitions and is
Assistant Editor of Wolfprint, a conservation magazine.
Publisher: Another Sky
Graham is Editor-in-chief of Dogzplot, as well
writing at Monroe County Community College. He is widely published in
Pindeldyboz, Elimae, Prick of the Spindle, Frigg,
Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Thieves Jargon, Dicey
Brown, Wigleaf, Cella's Round Trip, as well as many
others He is also
an avid poker player.
with Barry Graham
this book (used or
Publisher's Website: Another Sky
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