Sunday, September 17, 2006 Reviews HIGHLY IRREGULAR STORIES by Richard Grayson

On September 16, 2006, Nancy Gail reviewed Highly Irregular Stories for

Highly Irregular Stories is an anthology of four Richard Grayson chapbooks. Although not for every taste, selections are intriguing enough to keep the reader turning pages until the end.

"Inside Barbara Walters" examines what might have happened if a young girl had not had a flash of inspiration when it came time for show-and-tell in second grade. Having left her stamp collection at home, young Barbara reached into her backpack and grabbed her Curious George book. After that, all she had to do was mention her interest in reading and the day was saved.

"Progress" takes the relationship between a young man and a stranger and brings it full circle. Ricky is prevented from buying the wrong shirt in Bloomingdale's and ends up going home with Eric Cornell. While Eric fixes dinner for the two of them, he suddenly remembers a neighborhood association meeting he must attend. For some reason, he has gotten himself named in charge of the tree parent committee. Ricky is left at Eric's place to fend for himself. When Ricky calls a pharmacy for a sleep aid, a young teenager named Rico delivers it.

"17 Fragments in Search of a Story" is exactly what the title implies. An author talks about himself and the book he is trying to write in 17 parts. While there is a natural flow to the sections, the ending is not one readers are going to forget.

"Eating at Arby's" was the longest selection and the one I liked least. A retired couple moves to Florida (where else?) and discovers life is not quite what they imagined. In a bizarre move, Grayson takes their day-to-day banter and turns it into an irritating form of repetition. It makes the two main characters sound like idiots. However, I found the reference of wanting to take a trip to Columbia amusing.

"The Governor of the State of Depression" looks into the life of a politician and shows the glamour of a life in public office is not always what people think.

Grayson is hardly a typical author. He takes real life issues in society and uses them freely in every story he writes. With the varied selection, readers will find at minimum one thing they like even if they consider the rest to be junk.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Judd Lear Silverman Reviews Richard Grayson's AND TO THINK THAT HE KISSED HIM ON LORIMER STREET

On his eponymous blog, Judd Lear Silverman reviewed Richard Grayson's And to Think That He Kissed Him on Lorimer Street on September 9, 2006:

If you're not familiar with the writer, Richard Grayson, you should be, especially those who love the short story form. Besides spending time on bogus runs for political office and publicity stunts that have graced People and Page Six in the Post, Grayson's been writing prolifically for years, and his first anthology, With Hitler in New York, was recently reissued. Other humorous writings have included the collections I Break for Delmore Schwartz, Eating at Arby's: The South Florida Stories, and Narcissism and Me, as well as a novella, The Silicon Valley Diet. [Some of these stories have also been reprinted in Highly Irregular Stories (Dumbo Books).] But his recent collection, entitled And to Think That He Kissed Him on Lorimer Street, is perhaps the best collection to start with, reflecting not only his gifts as a satirist but his ability to keep the mind so busy it doesn't know that the heart has been touched. Like a reality TV junkie, Grayson mixes seeming fact with fiction, borrowing names, places and people from his own life and shaping them into odd and effecting commentaries on the passage of time, family relationships, sexuality, race relations, and America's pathological preoccupation with celebrity. Some stories are quick brushstroke sketches of people and a particular time. Others are journeys told in vignettes stretching spans of 20-30 years. Friendships are explored in sideways glances, showing how the most unlikely of alliances can turn into lifelong relationships. Numerous stories (perhaps one too many for the same collection) are subdivided by real estate locations: old movie palaces, libraries, and shopping centers, where seemingly innocuous events are recalled that by the end of the story add up to a whole lifetime of experience. Grayson shape shifts from gay to straight, white to black, male to female, kid to aging wit. Grandparents and childhood buddies play recurrent and important roles, but discerning fact from fiction in Grayson's work is tricky until one considers these stories in the aggregate. In the biography of the great Italian filmmaker, Federico Fellini, the maestro is quoted as saying that the truth of his life is not in the facts reported by birth certificates, death notices and journalistic reportage, but in his art, his dreams, his films--it is in the revelation of the imagination that the real artist is known. Likewise, the truth of Grayson is in these tales, invented and reinvented versions of his life and experience. The facts may not be verifiable, but the affection and care he displays in his description of life's travels and the people in his life are real, resulting in stories that are affecting and sharply observed. Recommended.