Easter Rabbit
 by Joseph Young

Publishing Genius Press
2009, Paperback
First collection
Book website

Joseph Young lives in Baltimore, where he co-runs the art blog Baltimore Interview and keeps the microfiction blog very small dogs. His work has been featured in SmokeLong Quarterly, Mississippi Review, Hobart, Exquisite Corpse, Pindeldyboz, Word Riot, Lit Pot, Blue Moon Review, Haypenny, Rock Heals, Eleven Bulls, JMWW, elimae, Frigg and others. He is fond of collaboration and has created art exhibitions with visual artists such as Christine Sajecki and Magnolia Laurie.

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"The filmmaker forgets his camera. He goes to the river instead, ice sliding by in blue sheets. On one is a man cooking over a pale fire. Hey, says the man, sliding by. By the time this melts, I'll be in warmer parts. The filmmaker sells his camera. He makes out for the desert, writing poems like sun under static."

Reviewed by David Woodruff


Easter Rabbit, published by Publishing Genius, is made up of three sections and a total of 86 micro fictions, ranging from 17 words to 200, with most averaging around fifty. The three sections are titled: Easter Rabbit, Deep Falls, and God Not Otherwise. The first two sections offer a contrast in terms of a more urban setting in Easter Rabbit and a more rural one in Deep Falls. Characters are referred by the pronouns "he" or "she". One might wonder whether certain characters are repeated from story to story. For example, is the "she" of Marie Celeste the same person in Loss?

Consider the two protagonists of A Brace is Not a Couple and Not to See a Bird:
"At the back of the store, beneath shelves of porcelain cats, were bags of confetti... 'Some look like guts,' she said, 'and red spaghetti.' He wouldn’t make the obvious rhyme, though he saw through her eyes the rising birds."

"The noodles boil to paste, blacken, catch fire. She comes home and throws the pot into the snow, a hissing startled crow. Upstairs, she finds him asleep, eyes clenched to the plumes of acrid smoke. She slides beside him, has dreams - acres of corn-stalk, winter rag - pinioned by the wing of his arm."
In the first story, the "she" makes a rhyme of confetti and spaghetti. In the second, snow rhymes with crow. Again there is a repetition of birds. In fact, Young seems to use the repetition of certain words as connecting devices, such as snow, hand, and ear.

There are also some themes that run through the collection such as religion (Priest, Lily, God, Ark , Cardinal, St Sebastian, St Avia’s Epistle, Eden), violence (drips, splatter, red) and our relationship not only with others but with nature.

Water is mentioned throughout many of the micros. Of micro fiction, Young once commented that it’s both a visual language as well as a sonic one, at once both dense and transparent. In fact, Young has been known to collaborate with other media artists, as Christine Sajecki’s gorgeous artwork in Easter Rabbit can testify.

One gets a sense that the stories of Easter Rabbit are crafted from a sense of music as well as a mystery of daily life, the relationships, tired or conflicted, that help to define us. Many of the stories are, I suspect, meant to be read aloud for their sheer music, slant rhyme, and alliteration, as in Girl:
"The tadpoles flipped on the brown mud bottom. She dipped one out and held it near, seeing it in her belly, shaping arms and feet and a small, blond head. She set it back and stood, breasts out, arms up. The ducks in the weed, eyes hard like hungry boys, waited for bread. She would call, I hate you, or, I love you, and the ducks would scatter. She would do neither. the mud sucked her shoes, the minnows showed their silver stomachs and rolled away."

There is also a strong sensory appeal in many of the stories, as The Long Daylight Night:
"The three walked up from the stone walls and trees, 4 AM. Their hands smelled like paper, water, bridges, glue. They said goodnight and stood there, jaws shining, teeth bright, going nowhere."
Young is very adept at what JA Taylor calls “the truncated sentence,” that is, a sentence that has been pared back, yet allowing most of the essence to shine through. I would add that by this very truncation, we are allowed to experience this essence, if not able to totally comprehend it by sheer intellect. And although these stories are small in terms of word count, they are big in the sense of dealing with beauty and pain in their many shades and disguises. In stories this size, every word must count, even the titles. Consider the title: In the Light of No Understanding, taken from the collection. The title alone has a kind of poetry about it and adds more texture to the story. Or consider On Not to See a Bird:
"The noodles boil to paste, blacken, catch fire. She comes home and throws the pot into the snow, a hissing startled crow. Upstairs, she finds him asleep, eyes clenched to the plumes of acrid smoke. She slides beside him, has dreams - acres of corn-stalk, winter rag - pinioned by the wing of his arm."

In such few and well-chosen words, we are given a sense of an emergency, and at the story’s end, we believe that a change has occurred, something both profound, yet delicate.

In all fairness, this collection is not for everyone. Those who liked their fiction well-defined or gobbled up and forgotten after a single reading, will find Easter Rabbit vexing. But in its open-ended form, in its prism-like prose, this is one book that the reader can return to again and again to see new meanings. In that sense, I believe the book is worth far more than its price.



Read a story by this author in Literary Potpourri


David Woodruff publishes stories and poems under the pen name, Kyle Hemmings. He lives and works in New Jersey.

David's other Short Reviews: Ursula Le Guin  and Brian Attebery (eds) "The Norton Book of Science Fiction"

Gardner Dozois (ed) "Galileo's Children"

Allison Amend "Things that Pass for Love"

The Inkermen "Green and Unpleasant Land"

Wendy Marcus "Polyglot, Stories from the West's Wet Edge"
                     
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