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Donut Holes:
Sticky Pieces of Fictionalized Realities 

Matty Stanfield

 
" Me and my friend want you to come over here and get stoned with us. She’s from Jasper. I’m from Planet Claire. I don’t have any money, but you will love me."

Reviewed by Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau

"Sticky pieces of fictionalized realities" is an accurate description for Matty Stanfield's first book. The stories, drawn from the author's experiences, do tend to stick with you after the last page. But like donut holes, they're not quite as filling or as substantial as I'd hoped. 

At 93 pages, Donut Holes is easy enough to digest in one sitting. Stanfield's style is conversational, and he doesn't hold back much. Whether it's about incestuous abuse, masturbating with tube socks and donuts, or cleaning brain stains off the back of a car, Stanfield tells it like he sees it—often with wry humor, honesty and graphic detail. 

It's the book's main strength, but also its shortcoming. Donut Holes feels largely unedited, occasionally giving in to rants, ramblings and typographical errors. In Phone Sex Boy and Quiet Riot, Stanfield spends the first precious paragraphs explaining why he hasn't told the story before. And in the opener, The Dingo Ate My Baby!!!, he recounts a bankruptcy case hearing in which he was being sued by AmEx. Pissed that the AmEx lawyer simply phones in and lies about receiving the necessary documents, he declares: 

"However, at this moment, I am not sure how I feel about the state of affairs in my country; a country run by corporate interests; a place where an empire like Enron can do whatever it wants; a country where the vice-president can shoot his friend and not even bother to visit him in the hospital; a place where war is the leading money maker; a country in which citizens and other human lives are expendable for a buck; a place where I am a second class citizen just by the nature of my sexuality; a society that undervalues women because they are not men; my country of birth; a place where corporate entity can play with your life with a conference call and the judge treats you as if you are a fucking idiot." 

The sentiment is strong, but there's no real plot. In fact, the story, like the rest of the ensemble, reads more like an essay. Or, like listening to a friend reminisce about the fucked-up things that he's seen and gone through, in between puffs of weed. Which, admittedly, is perhaps Stanfield's point. 

Aside from the author, the characters in Donut Holes are prostitutes, strippers, drug dealers, junkies and phone sex operators. Stanfield treats them all as both kindred spirits and objects of observation, and writes about them with empathy and a certain sense of detachment. As he says in Conversations with a Stripper: "The bus stop is not too far from one of the many strip clubs in the city. Though seedy, this club has a kind of cool vibe about it. You get the feeling that in a few years these places will most likely be nothing more than a memory. To many, I think that is a good thing, but I kind of like knowing that seedy isn't too far away." 

And because all 15 stories are filtered through the author's own lenses, we never really get to delve deeper into other point-of-views. Again, this seems intentional. 

For me, the best parts happen when Stanfield doesn't over-explain and lets readers do the judging. Not a Word and Giant Spiders, both stories about the abuse he suffered as a child from the hands of his father, stand out in this sense. They make you cringe as you keep on reading. 

Overall, if you're looking for a "gourmet" literary meal with fleshed-out characters, rich plots and measured writing, this book may not be for you. But if you just want to taste a few bite-sized and gritty pieces of someone's life—which can at times make you laugh or make your skin crawl—then by all means, dig in.

 Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau wants to explore the world by foot, pen and lens. Raised in Manila, she lived for a time in Los Angeles before moving to France. A Pushcart Prize nominee and 2008 Sean O’Faolain Short Story Competition finalist, she has stories in places like the Humanist and Southword.
 

Publisher: CreateSpace

Publication Date: 2009

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?Yes

Author bio: Matty Stanfield lives in San Francisco. He has just entered his forties and is none too happy about it. Aside from his blog ramblings, this is his first foray into publishing his writings.

Read an interview with Matty Stanfield


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