In his latest short story collection (Tales from the Mind of a Schizophrenic, 2011), Macraven spins tales of murder, religious fanatics and people on the brink of insanity.
This book offers the variety of stories teased by its title, and many have recurring themes. Religion, for example, plays a part in many stories, including “Monk,” in which the titular character questions his faith. Lost souls torment a priest in “When Our Demons Come,” and in “Caught Up in the Devil,” a home invasion is believed to be the “devil’s work.” Several stories address mental turmoil, such as a schizophrenic’s internal struggle while attending a party in “A Case of Madness.” In the unexpectedly engaging “Irreversible Damage,” a psychologist discusses a patient’s years of drug abuse. But while the collection’s overall tone is bleak—most stories end in murder or imminent psychosis—Macraven keeps the book from drowning in unadulterated gloom. Several stories, such as “File 349” and “After the Fact,” have darkly humorous twists. He also judiciously handles religious issues, as when the nameless narrator of “My Rant” makes it a point to blame humanity, not God, for the world’s dismal state of affairs. Macraven’s style is often abstract but in an old-fashioned, romantic fashion reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe. Sometimes the Poe influence is overt, as in the 1832-set “Prior to My Madness,” which has a protagonist named Edgar Bellows; other times he uses it with more finesse, as in the Poe-esque opening line of “Murder”: “It was a warm Friday night when I first decided to end the life of Chet Williams.” Stories such as “Feeding,” “12:01” and “A Birthday Party” are quite unsettling, but the author surprises with the good-natured, poignant “Longing,” featuring a widowed woman living alone, and “Henry,” about an elderly man getting lost on his drive to a doctor’s appointment.
A standout, frequently profound story collection.