Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks

Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks

Fiction short stories, paperback 170 pgs.
White Whisker Books, Los Angeles

This is Christopher Meeks second book of short stories and I'm sorry now that I haven't read his first, which was an award winning collection. I read these eleven stories through the first time for pleasure and it was that. I like them a lot.
The characters here, whether humourous, tragic, or mildly absurd are likeable, believable, and not always predictable. Like ordinary people, but with quirks that make them memorable. I haven't had a collection of short stories stay with me as vividly for quite some time. Even better, when I looked back through them I realized that there's not a weak one in the bunch. The author clearly edited himself, choosing and arranging this group of stories carefully. I've always preferred longer short stories so I wasn't surprised that "The Sun is a Billard Ball" at 32 pages in length would appeal to me. Or the 25 page "Breaking Water". But even "Catalina" at only 3 pages is a solid and emotionally powerful account of a man's unexpressed grief . I read it several times because what the author doesn't say is as telling as what he does. This is the sign of a good writer. In the first of these three stories, the uncertainties and fears of impending illness and diagnosis are palpable, the tension is familiar and real. In the third a Greek American man, advised by an acquaintance to spend the day on Catalina Island, is angry and judgmental until " He is surprised to see that the dry hills leaping from the water were like the Chora Sfakion in Crete. His friend must have known."

There's a wide range in age and emotional experience of his characters. Whether it's a seven-year-old girl who's afraid of water in the more lyrical "The Wind Just Right ", or a seventy-eight year old playwright losing his home and life's work to wildfires in" The Old Topanga Incident", Meeks is capable of seeing and writing from very different perspectives. He shows great versitility too by writing in the voice that most suits each story. His use of the first person singular for the main character of "The Holes In My Door" lets us into the depression and obsessive fears of this recently seperated man who's slipping into paranoid behaviour. Any other perspective would not have had the same power. The use of the second person in the Topango story work well too. "You open the door" to shouting firemen,"you run down two flights of stairs", "you grab the play, the only copy", "you wonder whether you can make it through this". Urgency and loss are keenly felt by the reader, it's perfect.

I especially enjoyed the title story "Months and Seasons". The main character is determined that the love of his life will have the name of one of the months or seasons of the year. He won't even date someone who doesn't fit the bill. This tale about putting limits on our own fate is touching and funny. When a woman at a party introduces herself as "August" I laughed out loud. Meeks creates believable female characters too as in the final story "Breaking Water", where a model must reshape her entire life after heart surgery. Her inability to get pregnant causes her husband to abandon her, but not until after she has recovered from surgery. He doesn't want to look bad after all. We are rooting for her at every new turn in her life. This is a great collection of stories that I look forward to reading again. Four and a half stars out of five.
Highly recommended.

There's icing on the cake here too with "The Hand", an excerpt from "The Brightest Moon of the Century" at the end of the book. This novel in the form of related short stories will cover 30 years in the life of a young Minnesotan named Edward. The first of these stories made me want to know more about what happens to Edward. Given this writer's gifted sense of storytelling, I expect this new book will be a winner too.

Christopher Meeks first book was the award winning "The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea and Other Stories"
Thank you to the author for the lovely signed copy he sent me.
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This book is part of the LibraryThing Author Challenge

9 comments:

  1. sounds like a winner. good short stories are so satisfying sometimes.

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  2. Excellent review; I really enjoyed this collection as well (my favorites were "The Old Topanga Incident" and "Dracula Sneaks into the Night"). I like the title of *your* post, too...clever!

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  3. I also really enjoyed this book. Chris has recently joined LibraryThing and should have an AuthorChat sometime soon...keep an eye out.

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  4. Sounds great! I just finished an excellent book that a neighbor loaned me 'cause she thought I'd like it. It is "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Shaffer. Don't be fooled by the title or the humorous first part-- there is some deep stuff in it.

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  5. This book sounds very interesting. I think I'll read it!

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  6. That holocaust book sounds pretty good. I love reading your reviews

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  7. This sounds interesting, I might have to check it out. Thanks for the review!

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  8. Not a weak one in the bunch is quite impressive. As with poetry, I prefer shorter ones. Still, good to know Meeks seems comfortable with both.

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