Title: The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachmann (and other stories)
Author: Ken Brosky
Publisher: Brew City Press
Release date: November 2011
Category: short stories
The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachmann (and other stories) is an excellent example of the power of the short story form, and I challenge anyone who thinks that short stories aren’t as involving as a novel to read these. The stories are gutsy. The writing is brilliant and the similar themes and characters give unity to the collection. This is why I prefer collections to anthologies. No matter how vasty different each story may be, the author’s style pervades the work and their voice shines through each story. By the end of the book, the author’s perspective has made its mark on you.
I usually read fantasy, but these stories were starkly real. Brosky takes powerful subject matter and treats it with skill and honesty. The stories are more character orientated than action focused, and the internal monologues allow us to go deeply into the characters. Although there are ten different stories, the characters (all men) were very similar in each story. Some might consider this a negative, but I liked it, because it gave me the chance to delve deeply into that kind of headspace.
“The Phreaks” – A fairly light starter to the collection, this is an enjoyable story about phone hackers with different perspectives on what they do. One has an innocent view; the systems are there, let’s see if we can play with it. The other’s attitude is more spiteful. He wants to bring down the phone company. If you broke it down, you could say it was a kind of good versus evil story. The detail in the information was astounding and I suspect that hours of research must have gone into this story.
“On The Tenth Day, I Kept It Down” – The second story throws us in the deep end with a challenging story about a white man lost inDarfur. He searches refugee camps for a little boy, and all around him are the results of tribal warfare, a high proportion of people living with severed limbs and the smell of burning bodies as yet another village falls to murder, rape, pillaging and burning. The circumstances are shocking and though it’s a downer, for me this is the best story, because it throws us into the middle of the moral and emotional dilemmas inherent in the situation, and the author’s compassion shines through.
Even though they are likely to be raped by the same men that burned their homes and murdered or mutilated their neighbours, the women in the camps are the ones who go out to collect firewood. Why? Because if the men go, they’re likely to be murdered. This is the reality for these people. It engages your heart and provokes you to think deeply. I loved the story as much as I hated that it was true.
‘Apocalypse Wow!” – This is a delightful, satirical look at the idea of the Apocalypse and God’s relationship to man. It could also have been called the takeaway at the end of the world. Famine rides up on his horse to the drive through for a coffee and tells the workers to stay there because he’s coming back for more. So long as they stay indoors they are safe from the horsemen that are destroying the world. The story follows the reactions of the staff to the ending of their world and their conversations with Famine while he’s drinking his coffee – he’s just doing what God told him to do and doesn’t know much about what’s going on.
“The Third Pile” + “Deer Tales” + “One in Six” -These three are told by the same narrator, a young man who is trying to work out what to do with his life. There’s a bit of fun in these but the undertone is always serious.
“Intermission” – The idea of an intermission was a lot of fun. I really liked just the fact that it was there.
“Amazon.com” – This was different and a lot of fun, a look at how something crazy that may or may not exist can make it big on Amazon’s rating system.
“Altered Beast” – I don’t remember this one. I’m not sure why. I guess it was the one that interested me the least.
“I Can’t Just Turn it Off” – This one is about a veteran who had returned from Iraq without a leg and searches for it in the dead of night.. A wonderfully sensitive and powerful story about how ingrained the experiences of war are in the veterans psyche. Apparently it’s based on a true story too, which makes it even more amazing. This, like the second story, is a one that everyone should read, just so you understand what it’s like.
“The Unauthorized Biography of Michele Bachmann” – An enjoyable story about an interesting character. I would have liked a little more romance between the main characters and it should probably have a warning sticker for hardline Christians.
“Positivity Squares” –I loved this story about workers at a company who was big on training it’s workers to be positive at the same time as they were laying off workers. It was funny and poignant at the same time, the best kind of humour.
I’ll end this review with an excerpt from the blurb because it summarises the collection very well.
If there’s one theme running through all of the stories, it’s survival. Every character approaches this theme in a different way. For the couple stuck inside a coffee shop during the Apocalypse, “survival” means getting through the next hour. For the middle-aged man who fears he might be downsized, it means going out on your own terms.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who appreciates good writing. I give it 5 stars and add it to the Awesome Indies listing.