A poetic and purposefully perverse collection of stories that describes a dystopian world only slightly divergent from our...

In this collection, Parkison (The Petals of Your Eyes, 2014, etc.) makes absurd that which is commonplace by twisting it into abnormality.

Lyrical and often abstract, these seemingly linked stories call attention to the grotesque in modern society. This book is filled with scenarios that are as ridiculous as they are familiar: a woman drinks a tall, cold glass of milk with dinner and works on a hidden-camera investigation about the cruelty of cows—that is, ferocious cows beating and mistreating farmers; an unidentified narrator offers tips for securing your collection of used condoms against the threat of used-condom thieves; an industry of turning children’s eyes into valuable jewels makes it possible for a rich woman to hire a blue-eyed 14-year-old girl and a green-eyed man to procreate in order to harvest the eyes of their offspring. These stories, distorted and often disgusting, draw attention to the hypocrisy and deviance not only in the world of these characters, but in our own as well. Perhaps the most prevalent signifier of this trope is meat. A mother fanatically insists on the importance of meat, an aunt decorates a corpse in hamburger. The subjects of this collection have a fast-food addiction so acute that they can’t help but be hungry for “Mack-Dawn-A-Dolls” even in the most horrifying situations—for example, when witnessing a man pleasure himself while trespassing on a porch as he eats a hamburger or, worse yet, when a “serial killer/serial rapist” douses a severe flesh burn with condiments, pickles, onions, and cheese. Throughout the collection, this sort of revolting imagery is coupled with poetic prose, further emphasizing the unsightly, the absurd. Parkison’s language is flowery and figurative: “Love child to love child, their velvet lust was like yours—a relic, liminal, yet contagious like consumption.” Although both the message and the writing are sometimes heavy-handed, it is effective. One is moved equally by the lyricism and repulsiveness and can find beauty in both.

A poetic and purposefully perverse collection of stories that describes a dystopian world only slightly divergent from our own.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-57366-060-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: FC2/Univ. of Alabama

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017



A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986



The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000