The noted poet, essayist, and fiction writer (Petty Crimes, 1998, etc.) here offers a series of quick sketches, each a thumbnail miniature of the hustle, bustle, dreams, confusion, and beauty of life.
Soto’s latest collection includes the contents of two previous volumes (Small Faces , 1986, and Lesser Evils, 1988), as well as five recent essays published in various journals. As he ponders the flotsam of events that constitute his life, daily experiences and casual interactions take on a luminous quality. Reader will feel immediate familiarity with the normal and ordinary events, people, and places Soto describes; he avoids banality by infusing these basic patterns with a gentle humor and a deep affection. Falling for the girl plastered on the label of a can of peas, receiving oranges as Christmas presents, eating and drinking with friends, traveling with hitchhikers, and other everyday moments emerge as opportunities to consider the vagaries of life while concurrently appreciating its gifts. There is an occasional misstep, as when Soto pedantically admonishes, “We lose the child of the heart by becoming adults who compromise their dreams for jobs,” but such disappointments are more than adequately compensated for by the charm of passages describing the quiet beauty of kissing his daughter’s stuffed dolphin’s behind, imagining what it would be like to be chastened by a dog, or likening the blowhards at an academic meeting to pieces of talking meat. For the most part, Soto’s tone and temperament are sharp, yet genial. The collection concludes with four essays on reading, writing, and readership.
Sweet but not saccharine, these reminiscent pieces invite the reader on a journey to the streets of Fresno, where the mundane details of existence shine.