Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: "Ladies and Gentleman" by Adam Ross

A solid short story in this day and age, is something to be truly savored, and a solid short story collection is something to be celebrated. Where every story offers something unique and intriguing with its limited word count, yet still is able to pack a literary punch that is equal to that of a large, sprawling novel. In his sophomore effort, Ladies and Gentleman, Adam Ross really tops himself with a group of short works that would be strong on their own, but when they are put together form a strong set of themes that make for a very affirming read. I have read his much touted debut novel, Mr. Peanut, and found it a very likable book, but found some of the techniques he used a little too far reaching for the ideas he was toying with. With these stories, he pares down a lot of the grandiose high wire acts in order to make the stories more relatable to the everyday person, but still come off as suspenseful, creepy and quite disturbing, but all in a funny and safe way. Each of them is populated with a person that we know, or even someone that can be a subconscious reflection of our true self. And too watch what happens to these people who are just trying to gain a piece of happiness does sting a bit, but its lasting effects really are for the greater good. The first story in the collection “Futures” concerns an unemployed man as he juggles the prospect of a new job at a bizarre company, and his relationship to his female neighbors troublesome son as he returns from being kicked out of college. It culminates in an enlightening speech from the man to the son, and probably the cruelest yet funniest fate to befall a narrator you are likely to come across. The next story, “The Rest of It” has a professor aiding and abetting the janitor of the school he works for who he thinks is a criminal. It is not the best one of the collection, but it does feature a cool side story about finding dead bodies on a private island. In “The Suicide Room” a quartet of college students act out their passive aggressive tendencies toward each other by an escalating game of Truth or Dare, with vague yet sad consequences. The story “When in Rome” about the relationship between two brothers, one very successful, responsible, albeit a bit cold, and another who is not as successful and responsible, but a bit more understanding, shows how each of their qualities work to help and hinder each of there cause and collective goal of finally being able to understand one another. It ends with a shocking crescendo of violence, and yet another painful betrayal that is expected, but will still leave any self-respecting reader breathless and heartbroken. Each of these finely drawn stories comes off as a kind of Twilight Zone episode written by Tom Perrotta. Instead of a supernatural element being a trigger for deeper feelings to involuntarily and forcibly come out of us like vomit, it is a certain real world weirdness and coincidence that bring about a cosmic truth, sometimes painful but always needed. A breathtaking collection by an emerging talent is sure to restore your hope in a dying form.
Rating: 5/5

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