Di Blasi (Creating Cassandra, 2017) says the nine stories in his collection “straddle…the material world and the spiritual one, what we hope for and what we fear most.”
These stories also pose existential questions about who we are and where—in that liminal space between the material and spiritual world—we truly live. In the opening story, the narrator wakes many months after an accident. All appears fine: His beautiful wife and daughter are nearby, preparing for a dinner party. But reality begins to crack. His wife is younger; a dinner guest “looks well” and is also dead; his daughter is both home and traveling in Europe. The narrator realizes he too is both dead and alive, in heaven and hell. Subsequent stories explore similar themes of displacement through a range of characters and settings. A writer sells his soul for a good story in a San Antonio hotel. A man meets a young panhandler who arrived in the world through a mirror; he follows her and discovers the dark side of himself. A businessman travels with a mysterious colleague who releases his soul and teaches him “the fastest way…to get from here to there.” Most of Di Blasi’s protagonists, though diverse in age and circumstance, are male and often stranded between worlds or versions of themselves. The female antagonists are secondary but hold the power. They comfortably reside in either world and frequently lure protagonists over the threshold. This relationship creates an intriguing tension, and Di Blasi is particularly deft at dialogue that moves the story forward: “How long has it been since you published anything?” a female devil goads the desperate writer. “Seven years,” he replies. She retorts: “More like eight. Why do people love little lies and make so much fuss over the big ones?” Di Blasi’s main concern, however, is the struggle within. And while some of his plot devices are well-worn (card games with the devil), he broaches these complex themes with creativity and vigor.
Vivid stories—both believable and unworldly.