Skip to main content

Your Smallest Bones


Your Smallest Bones




Sean Taylor (Seventh Tangent 2014, Trade Paperback) 175 pages, $8.99 cover price

For San Francisco Book Review


There is a technique for relief from headache or muscle pain I learned years and years ago in an acting class. The sufferer rests on his back, eyes closed and considers the pain. At first, it is a huge wash that covers the body in a blanket studded with nails, but then the mind narrows and narrows the pain down to one small prick point of its source. Once that place is discovered, imagine it is no longer there; make it disappear. Such is the process of a writer, save for one rather critical difference: That source point of pain does not disappear, instead it is lifted as carefully as a hummingbird's egg and laid softly on a page.

Any idiot can come up with a plot, a story idea. Drunks and stoners, children too, are exceptionally good at plots. 'So this dinosaur is hanging up its laundry when...' There is absolutely no art in conjuring up a story, merely craftsmanship. Even the dullest of us live at least a dozen potential stories a week but the vast majority of us do not recognize the stories within our lives. Sean Taylor does and that is why he is a goddam great writer.

Your Smallest Bones is a collection of twelve short stories and their quality is such that any blithering boob who asks, 'When's he going to write a novel?,' should have this paperback shoved straight down his throat like an apple in a roasted pig. Would I like to read a novel by Taylor? Oh hell yeah. Does it make him any less a goddam great writer that these are short stories? Oh hell no.

The incisiveness of his choices in selecting the telling details, plus the eloquence of how he describes them are what separate Taylor from the dull herd of sheep writers, all alike from a distance and all sounding the same. In that way, who he reminds me of is Leonard Cohen, the poet turned songwriter. Let's play a game. Who wrote which of these lines:

I built my house beside the wood so I could hear you singing.

You wonder about a lonely question mark you found in the palm of your hand.

I have decided what missing wants, a piece of chalk to write it, what is missing.

Here is your cart, your cardboard and piss, and here is your love for all this.

The first and the fourth are by L. Cohen, the second and third by S. Taylor. Both writers focus their work on lives that are both well-examined by their bearers, yet are still exalted or marred by magnetic inclinations towards obsession. And there are talismans too – a blender first used when a separating couple shared their first drink, the nape of a neck, a book made of bound mattresses.

Each of Taylor's stories focus around a moment that reveals a life. The first story, Flight and Weightless, echoes Miriam Toews' novel All My Puny Sorrows as it captures the final hours of a pianist's life as she decides to go out playing one last song. Or there's Hannah in Together Selfishly, who secretly records her younger lovers' trysts, being resolved to do ... something with the tapes. My favourite of the stories, Depluralize the Pair has at its core a man trying to open a coconut in order to assist some food protestors.

In sum, it is coming across a collection like Your Smallest Bones that makes a man like me glad of the reviewing profession for I can place my strongest recommendation to curious readers and so might help make a talented writer's career. I want to thank Sean Taylor for the pleasant two afternoons I spent with his book, as warmed by it as by the spring sun of my Irish home. He is a goddam great writer.

Be seeing you.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Blocks by Karl Parkinson

The Blocks

Karl Parkinson (New Binary Press 2016, Trade Paperback) 274 pages, cover price N/A

There's a tremendous irony in our lives you know, and it is one as large and predominant as the oxygen we breathe yet equally as invisible, equally ignored; an irony as imperceptible as the blood within our veins that itself only comes to our notice when the skin breaks and the blood trickles free before we hide the wound with a bandage and secure the blood back where it belongs. That irony is this: Our most basic desire, expressed in equal parts of hope and fear, is that we want to continue to live. And why? Because we want our individual lives to be different than what they are.
Karl Parkinson's first novel, The Blocks is a mad, tragic, stylish and daring exploration into that self-same need to survive and yet to change. The Blocks of the title themselves are neither those of the prison nor a child's alphabet; at least not literally although the reader may rightly infer those meta…

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Nutshell
Ian McEwan (Knopf Canada edition 2016, Hard Cover) 197 pages, $29.95 cover price
We have to talk about the concept first. Oh I had a long and lively internal debate about it, you can be sure of that. After all, all books have concepts that we accept without too much fuss – talking animals, sentient corpses, thought-filled trees, the whole Harrod's bought stuffed menagerie of Winnie the Pooh carrying on like a picnic gathering of the British Women's Institute with special invited guests from the Royal Society of St George – we accept all of those without too much fuss. I've even admitted to sniffing up a tear or two over The Brave Little Toaster, so if one can be moved by a bloody kitchen appliance then why not a sentient foetus as the central character of Ian McEwan's Nutshell?It probably won't surprise you that I have a theory to go with that, slightly more substantial than an amuse-bouche if not quite a meal in itself. My thinking is that we go with the ta…

White and Red Cherries by Tanja Tuma

White and Red Cherries: A Slovenian Civil War Novel

Tanja Tuma (Self-published 2016, Trade paperback) 301 pages with glossary and bibliography, cover price n/a
It dawned on me like a thunder strikes a tree: this petite young girl embodies a mission, her reason to exist. Every one of us embodies his mission by what he does. We are what we do. Not chemical elements, but our deeds define our being. We are neither the faith we trust in God, nor the love we give and take. The least of what we are is the genetic code we get from our parents, which in turn lives on in our descendants. No. We are what we do at this moment in this bloody world. Our deeds can defy eternity. They can mirror our will and freedom forever. Those words are thoughts by the elderly Martin, born during the Second World War and raised by the partisan heroine Valeria Batič as her son, when his natural mother Ada quite literally tossed her baby from a train window to Valeria as the train pulled out for Vienna. Ada you see w…