True Surrealism
by Christopher Klim

Hopewell Publications
2011
Paperback
First Collection







"At night I recall beautiful Nepal, just before the life I am living today. It is so close to my current life that it sometimes overlaps with recent memories. Nepal was similar to Tennessee with rolling hills and green as far as the birds flew, but the Nepalese seemed happier with their hills..."


Reviewed by Daniela Norris

This collection of ten short stories weaves together a world made of endless fragments of the characters' lives, memories and imagination. The backdrops and premises differ, but the characters reigning the tales are all engaging and intriguing. From a father and husband who lost his job, through a girl recalling many of her previous lives, and all the way to the last story in this entertaining and thought-provoking collection, of a wife and mother who decides one day to "go natural", it is difficult not to fall in love with Klim's protagonists.

A chef who is called to cook the last meal of one of her previous customers before he is executed is as original a character as the mind could invent:
When the call came from prison, I was lecturing Faith MacPherson again. Waiters lingered by the salad prep, nibbling on the leftover juicy greens, and the dishwashers paused over sudsy piles of bone china, the steam moistening their hair. The staff believed I enjoyed criticizing Faith. I saw that look in their eyes, as if the show was on again. They thought I was insensitive and demanding, a real terror of a boss, but I loathed having to spell things out for her. I hoped that my example as a professional woman in the kitchen would be enough and that Faith might aspire to greatness on her own.”

(from The Final Ingredient)

A cursed affair that ends with a surprising twist provides much insight into the randomness of relationships and into their pitfalls:
    "Are you in love with her, this…?"
    "Jasmine." Hank saw Darcy pause in the doorway. She had stopped crying. A lit cigarette poked from her fist. With her eyes occasionally darting across the hallway, she put the cigarette to her lips.
    "Do you love her?" she asked.
    "Not yet."
    "So what's the attraction?"
    "I don't know." He watched her rotate towards him. Smoke curled about their faces, connecting them by the thinnest of threads. He could yank her back with a single lie, but he refused to play any more games. "She's good for me."
    "That's your excuse?"
    "It's not an excuse."
    "It's the worst I've ever heard. When you'll fall in love, I guess you'll know what to say."
    A year later, Hank wondered if she'd jinxed him. He was in love with Jasmine, and he lied all of the time.

(from Nesting)
Klim has deep insight into the minds of men and women alike. His experiences are varied and widespread and he doesn't hesitate to use them in his tales. A humorous and lighthearted take on things makes these experiences easy to relate to.
On a cold winter night after the decade of war and sex and the following decade of booze and drugs and the next decade of money and power, I came into my own as a writer. I'd grown up on authors like Hemingway and Dickens – travelers, adventurers, first class showmen who knew the value of their deeds, if not the weight of their words.
    I was almost thirty years old, too young for the 60s summer of love, too poor for the 70s summer of drugs, and too unconnected for the 80s summer of greed. It was the 90s, a throwaway decade in American history, years filled with angst, confusion and irrational pursuits of wealth and fame. Just as deluded as the next person, I believed I could make it as a novelist, but I still felt removed from the crowd, as if no one else harbored unfulfilled dreams.

(from Satellites, Cigarettes and Whiskey)

True Surrealism fulfills the publisher's promise of "intelligent books for this millennium" and the understated sophistication and worldliness of this collection has turned me into a fan of Christopher Klim's writing.



Daniela Norris is a former diplomat, turned writer. She is the author of numerous award-winning short stories, articles and essays, and co-author of Crossing Qalandiya: Exchanges Across the Israeli/Palestinian Divide (Reportage Press, UK, 2010).
Daniela's other Short Reviews: Lynne Patrick (ed) "Criminal Tendencies"

Dede Crane "The Cult of Quick Repair"

Alexandra Leggat "Animal"

"Tales of the Decongested Vol 2"

David Eagleman "Sum: Tales from the Afterlives"

J. Robert Lennon "Pieces for the Left Hand"

Dylan Landis "Normal People Don't Live Like This"

Wells Tower "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned"

Jo Cannon "Insignificant Gestures"

Julie Weinstein "Flashes From The Other World"
                     
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Christopher Klim has published four novels prior to this first collection of short stories. He worked on observation and exploration satellites for the space program, as a photo-journalist, an assistant to a master chef, and a journalism professor. He is the executive editor of Best New Writing.

Read an interview with Christopher Klim