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review

Clemson professor’s short story collection is like awesome Keith Lee Morris’ short story collection Call It What You Want is frankly quite a shocker: who knew there was such a brilliant writer teaching at Clemson University? Morris tells engaging and accessible stories, but he does them with a technique that is just dazzling. Quite a bit of the action in these 13 stories takes place in character’s heads. The opening story, “Testimony,” is set in a courtroom where the main character is on the stand at a murder trial. The defendant is a friend, as was the victim. And while the actual testimony provides some of the plot, the real plot takes place within the protagonist. But even when Morris leads the reader into these internal monologues, he still has them speak to us (and to themselves) in a conversational style. Most of the folks in the book are working class, or out of work, and a bit on the fringe of society. Taking us inside them, he shows that under often-rough exteriors they are sensitive and thoughtful, but he writes them in a manner consistent with their exteriors. Morris is quite a stylist as well. The second sentence of “Ayudame” is 130 words long and if it doesn’t flow it sure moves at a tight clip. The first sentence of the story “My Roommate Kevin Is Awesome” is “Totally.” In “Visitation” the narrator provides a list of rules of his house - most about not stealing his stuff. He comes home and

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finds someone stealing his stuff and proceeds to beat him up. Then he explains to the bleeding man that he just came from church where his mother died while holding his hand. They watch “Happy Days” and discuss why Potsie and Joanie have such a big part in this episode. Then we move into his head as he tries to grasp his mother’s death. These stories are funny as well as being down and dirty and grim and rather violent too. At times they fly off into fantasy. In “Tired Heart” a man has agreed to pick up boxes on a cross country trip for a big cash payoff – but has to do so in some strange ways with a timetable that miraculously and menacingly changes so as to be impossible to meet. “Desert Island Romance” puts two strangers on an unnamed island, who still get bogged down in jobs and relationships. The most successful of these is “My Roommate Kevin is Awesome.” What’s awesome about Kevin that he is so bored with college life that he “like tore a fucking hole in the fabric of the universe.” This allows him to conjure up a Jacuzzi instead of a skuzzy dorm-room shower and makes the late Ray Charles drop by for an impromptu concert. Like Kevin, this collection is awesome. (Tin House Books, 262 pages, $14.95)

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story: jeffrey day

Profile for Mark Pointer

undefined magazine Book 7  

No fluff, no filler. Just Columbia and the outstanding artists, musicians, architects, chefs, designers, painters, sculptors, craftsmen and...

undefined magazine Book 7  

No fluff, no filler. Just Columbia and the outstanding artists, musicians, architects, chefs, designers, painters, sculptors, craftsmen and...

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