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Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, and Pank, among others, and forthcoming from Gargoyle #57 and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. 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. For two years I worked as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. Currently, I serve as a mentor for Dzanc's Creative Writing Sessions. I'm working on two novels and a short story collection. In May, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Read This: Bad Monkey by Curtis Smith


Curtis Smith has a gift for conjuring any kind of character imaginable, so much so, that I suspect he walks around with whole worlds in his mind, as varied and intriguing as they are familiar.

The first story in "Bad Monkey" is fiercely detailed and will likely haunt you. With chilling subtlety, Smith reveals, or more accurately, hints at, what happened to the smiling girl in the video. "The Girl in the Halo" is one of the few stories I've read in which the second person POV is so well done and fitting, I didn't notice it until the end. In "Think on Thy Sins" a son grows up quickly and takes on his father's businesses, both legal and illegal, after his father has an accident. In "What About Meg?" a widower, recovering from heart trouble, wants to down-size and sell the family home, but first he must decide whether or not to place his adult special needs daughter in a permanent care facility.

Smith's shorter stories are as richly layered and weighty as his longer pieces. In "In the Jukebox Light," a town looks at a promising local couple with a kind of loving awe which later turns to a wistful sadness after tragedy strikes. The piece "Caravan," reveals how the kind of unquestioning faith that lures people into the cult life can be as ominous and deadly to the spirit as the worst kind of evil. And in "Fever," one of my favorites of the collection, a mother cares for her feverish son as an ice storm snaps branches and makes a trip to the emergency room as treacherous as the fever itself. Smith creates atmosphere and suspense with concise precision. As the mother scolds herself for an affair that drove her husband away, she considers her son's future:

"She stroked her boy's flushed cheek, tasted the salty residue on her fingertips, and wondered how many nights he would spend trapped in a fever of one sort or another, his bearings undone by a fire within, a flame he could no more explain than he could resist."

Just as Parker has to deal with his troublesome monkey in the title story, the characters in this exquisitely crafted collection are forced to contend with their own bad monkeys.

2 comments:

Wet Ink said...

Sounds like a wonderful collection. I will check it out!

Ethel Rohan said...

Great review, Katrina, thank you. I will read!