What Da Cover Says: As the D.C. city sprawl moved west along the banks of the Potomac in the late 1990s, what had once been a rural backwater was rapidly transformed into a dystopian suburbia of suspicion, greed, and naked self-interest. This collection examines the resulting blends of money, race, and class that have come to define the ongoing metamorphosis of Northern Virginia. In “Kalim Mansour,” a boy trying to understand his father fixates on a mysterious Saudi car salesman. In “Rowdy,” a man who was sexually assaulted by his high school football team still romanticizes their masculine code of behaviour. In “A Non-Smoking House,” two contractors battle the realtors who control their livelihood as the ties that bind civil behaviour pull tight, and then snap. Each of MacKenzie’s stories explores the incommensurable moments that lie at the heart of shared experience, the yawning gaps that separate us, and our desperate attempts to close them.
What I Says: A collection of brutal short stories that examines masculinity and the pressures a man is under to keep up the the appearance of being a big strong man. A lot of the stories had a similar set up, two people, one who has put up walls and thinks that sharing their emotions is not the correct thing to do and the second is the person trying desperately to understand this male figure in their life. There is nothing to like about the first person, their masculine face has been worn for so long that they have become bitter and twisted. The second person makes for hard reading, you instantly care for them but you can see the inevitable outcome that they are going to turn out just as bad.
The writing is very good, these characters are experiencing every day events and MacKenzie manages to draw you in very quickly, in fact he does this a little too well, a few of the stories are only 2 or 3 pages long and I had already invested myself when it had suddenly ended. There is a constant threat of violence, quite often alcohol induced and it is this theme that made me think of Palahniuk…without Palahniuk’s trademark of trying to gross you out.
This is the first thing I’ve read by MacKenzie and I see that he has a novel too, this book has left me intrigued to see what he can do with a longer project. Favourite story here was the opening one “Scenarios” a great little discussion between kids on the most awesome way to die…Jerry was very wise. haha
Thanks to Alternating Current Press for the copy of this book.