Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 Under: Book reviews
Rather like Stories for Airports, "Pigs and Other Living Things" by Sean Boling appears to be another collection of well-written short stories that’s in danger of getting buried under the ever-expanding mass of self-published books on Smashwords. I wish I could say that the many thousands of loyal readers of this blog (ah, if only...) can be relied upon to rescue it from that fate. But since my daily total of “eyeballs” rarely climbs above the low single figures (even allowing for the fact that most people have 2 eyeballs, not 1), that seems unlikely. Still never mind, here’s my review:
If I had to pick a unifying theme (or themes) at work in this collection, I’d say the author was preoccupied with 2 things: people on the margins of society and how we think other people see us (and how that makes us feel about ourselves). I particularly liked “Focus”, about a photographer’s encounter with a heron (made me wince) and “The Monitor,” about what you imagine when you inadvertently tune into someone else’s baby alarm (yes, been there). Then there’s “Chaos” (about a father with a really enormous chip on his shoulder about the school he went to), “Marketing” (about a flower market) and “Prey” (about a man struggling to keep a farm going). These last 3 stories are all concerned to varying degrees with the life chances of characters at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum.
All the stories are based around a single dramatic event – like a shooting at a store, an unexpected incident at a football game or an encounter with a wild pig – which helps to keep the reader’s interest and provides a focal point. But although the collection is not without humour (especially “Chaos”), I felt the title had a slightly flippant, ‘throwaway’ tone which didn’t entirely do justice to the seriousness of the author’s intent.* Anyway, if that’s how it struck you too, don’t let it put you off giving this intriguing, varied and well-crafted selection a try. Click here to download it from Smashwords (at the time of writing, it was free).
* Titles are difficult though, especially for collections of short stories – and what do I know? After all, one of my short stories is called “Agricultural Production in the Sudan.” Not surprisingly, perhaps, it hasn’t been a huge hit – except, according to the geographic breakdown in my Feedbooks analytics, with people in China (who I suspect are somewhat disappointed when they find that it contains very little in the way of useful information about Sudanese agriculture).
In : Book reviews
Tags: "sean boling" "pigs and other living things" "short stories"
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