THE BALTIMORE ATROCITIES by John Dermot Woods

THE BALTIMORE ATROCITIES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A work of avant-garde fiction that makes The Wire look like a promotional video from the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce.

As the setting of the long-running television series The Wire, the long-suffering city of Baltimore became synonymous the world over with drug dealing, corruption and violent crime. With the publication of this book, Woods (No One Told Me I Was Going to Disappear, 2012, etc.) takes it to the next level. A few samples of his narrator's observations: "The city council...by necessity, ranks human slavery very low on the list of the city's woes." "[T]he people of Baltimore were quick to squander a child's life." "My least favorite civic institutions, which, to my knowledge only exist in Baltimore, are dead animal lending libraries...." While these accusations clearly are not serious, they are not all that funny, either. This is a compendium of gruesome flash fiction pieces involving drownings, kidnappings, suicides, betrayals, heartbreaks and heartlessness, most pinned rather quaintly to a specific Baltimore neighborhood—Roland Park, Guilford, Remington, Butcher's Hill. ("To explain why his mother had killed his father, a promising chef in Mount Vernon....") These miniature horror stories, some about associates or relatives of the narrator, others based on rumor or news, are clustered around the chapters of an ongoing narrative about two men trying, in various half-baked and surreal ways, to locate their abducted siblings, each of whom vanished long ago in the same park in Baltimore. Well, no surprise, really: "[C]hildren have been disappearing from this city for years and years." Woods now lives in Brooklyn; Baltimoreans may hope he will turn there for his next inspiration.

The book is illustrated with the author's charming ink drawings, which have the feel of New Yorker cartoons...if only one could get the joke.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-56689-371-8
Page count: 259pp
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2014




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