Recently I had the pleasure of reading Tom Saunders’ amazing short story collection, “Brother, What Strange Place is This?"
In the title story, successful composer Griffin Curzon attempts suicide and his inventor brother tries to resurrect him from his rapid mental decline to the man he once was. In the heart of his illness, Griffin writes in a letter to his brother this apt metaphor for life:
We see merit in numbers, in sequences. We search for the infinite in variety. We are imbeciles. Every note of music is a whole, deep symphony of sound. Play it soft, than softer still, breath on it, then strike it hard, harder, hit it so it rings on and on, the texture wavering and changing. Then add rhythm, slow, slower, a little bit faster, build it up, rat-ta-tat. There is staccato, legato, on and on and on. One note, one beautiful, indivisible note.’”
In “Aerobatics,” a father must face the inevitable changes in his relationship with his adult daughter, and in “The Seal Man,” a lonely woman sees hope for herself in the arrival of a stranger to her island. The characters in these pages don’t just make do, they transcend their circumstances. And the reader will find a variety of people here: transients who move into an abandoned zoo; an eccentric patron of the arts; a man coming back to his grandmother’s house after her death; an infirm man bracing himself for death.
From “Sweet Mercy Leads Me On:”
“Now I’m lying awake trying to think of when I was at my happiest. Because of the drugs I’ve been given it’s difficult to focus on anything but the present. My thoughts zigzag back and forth like a dog let loose in a park, picking up a scent only to discard it when a better one comes along.”
Intelligent and sophisticated, these stories showcase Saunders’ ability to render imaginative lives and settings in exquisite detail. Each story in the collection is a unique and separate world, yet each carries the mark of a sure hand, and the cohesive glue that binds them together is Saunders’ understated brilliance and compassion for his characters.
If you have not already done so, I suggest you purchase a copy of this superb collection. You’ll be glad you did.
- My work can be found in REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, Pank, New Delta Review, and Gargoyle #57, among others. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. Currently, I'm an Associate editor for Narrative Magazine. In 2011, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.