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
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
It's the book's main strength, but
also its shortcoming. Donut
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
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.
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.
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.
with Matty Stanfield
this book (used or
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you in the US
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