Monday, August 7, 2006

Bookgasm Reviews HIGHLY IRREGULAR STORIES by Richard Grayson

Ken Davis has reviewed Highly Irregular Stories at Bookgasm:

With HIGHLY IRREGULAR STORIES, I can’t think of adjectives that more accurately describe this collection of Richard Grayson’s writings than the first two of his title, although unorthodox, quirky, peculiar and highly entertaining also come to mind.

This book is purportedly an accumulation of stories originally published in the 1970s and ’80s in four separate chapbooks (DISJOINTED FICTIONS, EATING AT ARBY’S, THE GREATEST SHORT STORY THAT ABSOLUTELY EVER WAS and NARCISSISM AND ME), all long been out of print. I wouldn’t exactly describe the contents as stories, at least in the traditional sense anyway. Many of them might be better described as vignettes or sometimes as just snippets of a fictional conversation. Heck, “Some Sad News” is a mere 180 words. By comparison, this review is roughly 450. I didn’t find any exquisite plots or character development, but I was too busy enjoying myself to care.

Grayson is a literary performance artist. His words are avant-garde and so uniquely different than anything else I’ve ever read., as the book is chock full of the offbeat. Take the narrator in the 147-word “Ordinary Peepholes,” who spies the scrawled message on a subway “FOR A GOOD LAY CALL 969-9970.” He recognizes the phone number as his sister’s and the handwriting as his father’s. Or how about the very subtle but delicious irony in “I Saw Mommy Kissing Citicorp,” in which the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board who oversees the ebb and flow of cash in this nation has trouble with an ATM and can’t withdraw $200.

The entries from EATING AT ARBY’S were by far the most entertaining, written in the style of the old Dick and Jane readers, but updated to feature the liberal thinkers Manny and Zelda. These two don’t discuss how fast Spot can run, opting instead for more adult subject matter. For example, in “Strange Experience,” Zelda comes home and announces, “Look what I have got, Manny. I have some cocaine.” Manny replies, “So that white powder is cocaine. I have heard a lot about it from many people.”

Manny and Zelda are taken to a gun range by their friend José in “Fun with a Gun.” Zelda warms to the idea of firearms and says, “Manny, I want to shoot that gun. That gun will become our friend, just like José is our friend.” The topics of murder, homosexuality and outrageous electric bills also are tackled by the pair. Sasson Jeans and the Arby’s salad bar at Arby’s also make hilarious repeat appearances.

I highly recommend this book and reading in general. So do Manny and Zelda. In “Shopping in the Mall,” Zelda says, “I read a book once. It made me think.” Manny replies “Thinking is fun. I like to think.” – Ken Davis