Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: "Burnt Tongues: An Anthology of Transgressive Stories"

With Burnt Tongues, a Anthology of Transgressive Stories, a collection of stories by new or sometimes unknown writers, I feel I am taking my goal of discovering new writers more seriously than I have before. This is a collection short stories pulled from The Cult Workshop, a fan website of author Chuck Palahniuk. I see it as a writing equivalent of an open mic night, and with that comes some really good things and some really bad things as well. On one hand, you get some super-talented writers who were brave enough to post their stories online for free and find an audience, and possibly a publisher with the release of this book and Palahniuk’s named attached to it. But you also get some people who have simply read to many of his books and simply present a poor imitation of his stories that have little merit besides a few shocks meant to make you gag. The stories here are really dark, dealing with subjects as grief, loneliness and jealousy manifesting into aberrant behavior. I’ll pick out a few I liked and a few I didn’t to review. The first story “Live This Down” by Neil Krolicki, about the failed suicide of three ostracized high school girls is both funny and sad in its execution and inevitability, as well as “Mating Calls” by Tony Liebhard, which covers the male side of that spectrum. Then there are the stinkers, such as “Ingredients” by Richard Lemmer and “Heavier Petting” by Brian Piechos, which use shocking acts like objects used for vaginal insertion and bestiality just to make the readers puke and leave them unimpressed, although they aren’t as bad as “Zombie Whorehouse” by Daniel W. Broallt, which tells you all you need from the title, and still mages to be unoriginal. But the true gems I take away from this book are “Gasoline” by Fred Venturini, a dark coming of age tale about unwarranted sympathy and guilt that feels like something Daniel Woodrell would write, and “Engines, O-Rings and Astronauts” by Jason M. Fylan, a story about a school shooting with a unique perspective that echoes Shirley Jackson’s story “Charles. I do recommend this book, despite it’s glaring flaws, and it is a good choice if you want to take a chance reading some dark, dreary fiction by some unknown authors, this book is made for that.

Rating: 4/5

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