Book Review: 2008-011
Less Shiny by Mary Miller
23 pages from Magic Helicopter Press 2008
Eleven stories cover the 23 pages that make up Mary Miller's debut chapbook, and Magic Helicopter Press' first title, Less Shiny. The stories range from less than one to four pages in length and show off Miller's ability to bring things to a head quickly.
Most of what she brings to a head are relationships, and rarely fully developed, or solid relationships. There are women cheating on their husbands, finding themselves in semi-strange men's apartments wondering why, talking on the phone while men on the other end are finishing themselves off, and other sundry circumstances. There are also a whole mess of dogs in these stories, seemingly in more than half of them, including the opening story where a girl on a jump rope lease is treated like one.
Miller writes these scenarios well - never seeming to go too far into grittiness or despair, going just far enough to get her point across. Beyond this grittiness, Miller also shows herself to having a fairly dark sense of humor. And she does not shy away from much. From the opening story, "Duck":
You hunch? she asks, and she stands and grabs her knees, pushes her body in
and out to demonstrate. My momma and Duck be hunchin', she says. Like this.
Or from "A Blind Dog Named Killer and a Colony of Bees":
"Yeah. My friend Dave's in love with her."
"I'm not surprised. Everyone's in love with her."
"I'm a fan of the penis," I say, making myself cringe, and he reveals a row of yellow teeth."
These being short shorts, not every couple, or narrator considering being part of a couple, finds resolution by the end of the pieces. They don't need to though, Miller ends these fictions right where they should be, not one of the eleven feels incomplete.