Britisher Rhodes appears to enter the contest for smallest book of the year, offering 101 pieces said each to be 101 words long. But he doesn’t take the prize from the reigning Marty Asher, whose Boomer (p. 400) also had 101 tiny sections.
The subject is love as Rhodes’s “I” tells non-tales of ex or current lovers with names (sometimes) like Celestia, Xanthe, Zazie, Azure, Iolanthe, Running Water, Nightjar, January, Skylark, Orchid, and—well, that’s ten, and, besides, you get the idea. What actually to think of these many little pieces, though, may be better left to individual readers. Some are quite ugly, like “Kissing,” which begins, “Since the moment we met, my wife and I have not stopped kissing,” and ends, “Our lips are four broken scabs, and our chins always covered in blood, but we will never stop. We are far too much in love.” Satire, yes, but of what, exactly? Movie kissing? The answer may be evident here and there. Sometimes, as in “Indifferent,” there’s humor not yet so dry as to disappear altogether: “When, besotted, I casually suggested we get married, she shrugged her shoulder and, yawning, said, ‘Whatever.’” The spirit of Donald Barthelme hovers over some of the pages, as in “Normal”: “After a blazing row, Harmony joined the nuns. ‘That’s it,’ she said. ‘I’m joining the nuns.’” But Harmony didn’t like it with the nuns and came back, allowing Rhodes one of his humor’s higher flights: “‘We had to get up really early,’” says Harmony, “‘and they made us wear horrible long black dress things and no make-up, and sing all these boring songs.’” “Thankfully,” the tale concludes, “things quickly returned to normal, and now she’s back to spending her free time joining in with the commercials on TV, and making me get up from the sofa so she can look for her lighter.”
Blips (sometimes) of modern drollery, glimpsed on quickly turned pages, then gone forever.