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Your Own Back Yard – Michael Gillan Maxwell

Visual Art – Creative Writing – Social Commentary

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Your Own Backyard

mirror mirror on the wall, forest for the trees, own backyard, running down the road, crowd.

Drive-By Book Review: Beyond Redemption by Gary V. Powell

Book Review: Beyond Redemption by Gary V. Powell

2015 Fiction 121 pages

I tend to like flash fiction and short stories in general, but I am absolutely knocked out by the flash fiction and short stories in Gary V. Powell’s gem of a collection Beyond Redemption. I wonder if Gary Powell’s training in the law helped him to develop a disciplined approach to writing in such a powerfully concise style that gets straight to the point. He knows exactly how and where to pack the power in his punches. His prose is lean, compact and taut, yet lyrical and poetic enough to be powerfully evocative and compelling. It takes great skill to compress all of the necessary story elements into this kind of short form and Gary Powell does it with aplomb.

Beyond Redemption consists of 20 pieces, 18 of which have previously appeared in various literary journals, and every one of them is a winner. If this were an old school record album, then this could easily be a collection of his greatest hits.

Beyond Redemption explores the struggles of adolescents to assert themselves, young people coming of age, middle aged couples coming to grips with broken dreams and broken relationships, laid off factory workers, patients in a psych ward, people struggling to reconcile dreams of the past with the reality of the present, and people bumped, bruised and dinged up by life, but who find a way to dig deep and muster the resolve to keep on keepin’ on. Conflict lies at the heart of each piece and creates the tension that drives it. However, these are not depressing stories. Each one of them is, in some way, about resiliency of the human spirit.

Powell demonstrates an impressive ability to drop the reader into a specific time and place while wearing the character’s point of view like a second skin. He is not constrained by age or gender. Powell writes just as convincingly from the point of view of an angst ridden teenage girl looking for acceptance as he does from that of a disaffected middle aged man plodding through an unrewarding corporate career.

Many of the stories are colored by a very recognizable regional mid western flavor with references to Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and the Great Lakes. However, Powell writes just as convincingly about the deep south and the bayou country of Louisiana. Gary Powell is a great story teller who is, in my opinion, in the same league as widely recognized contemporary masters of the form including Tobias Wolff, Amy Hempel and Ann Beattie. Beyond Redemption is a collection well worth reading and my only regret is that I came to the end of it.

About the author:

Author photo

Gary V. Powell’s stories and flash fiction have been widely-published in both print and online literary magazines including most recently at The Thomas Wolfe Review, Fiction Southeast, SmokeLong Quarterly, and Best New Writing 2015.  In addition to being the winner of the 2014 Gover Prize for short-short fiction, several of his stories have placed in other national contests including The Press 53 Prize (2012), Glimmer Train (2013) and The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize (2014).

His first novel, Lucky Bastard, was recently published by Main Street Rag Press.

For this, and more of his work visit http://www.authorgaryvpowell.com

Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage ~ A Twisted Piece Of Creative NonFiction

Fantastic Voyage

I had a colonoscopy last week. It’s a basic rite of passage into middle age and while this wasn’t my first rodeo, that didn’t make it any easier. The prep is worse than the procedure. The entire week preceding the procedure I had to abstain from seeds, nuts, popcorn, and corn; which made the local squirrel population rejoice, because it just meant more for them. Also on the no fly list were ANY and ALL raw fruits and vegetables. Oh by the way, no anti inflammatory medications either. So if you have any aches and pains that you’d normally knock out with ibuprofen, forget it Buster. It’s like: “Here, chew on this old piece of saddle leather and tough it out. “

At noon on the day before the procedure, I began my vision quest in earnest by guzzling a 16 ounce witch’s brew of vile tasting laxative salts, then pounding down 32 ounces of water. Just so you know, this is not your Father’s Nectar of the Gods. It’s actually more repugnant than the worm at the bottom of a bottle of cheap mescal on spring break in Tijuana. Only you don’t wake up with a new tattoo. And don’t venture too far from the bathroom after chug-a-lugging this stuff either, because it’s fire in the hole baby! Almost immediately, my lower GI tract started rumbling like Mt. Vesuvius. I sprinted to the bathroom so fast I would have crushed the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. Anyway, the end result was not so much a bowel movement as it was the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy and the gushing torrent from a hundred fire hoses at a 4 alarm house fire. This inelegant display occurred multiple times throughout the afternoon. Just as things seemed to be settling down I repeated the entire sequence at 6 PM. The only nourishment allowed is clear liquids, although the final insult is being denied alcohol. What possible harm could come from downing a vodka tonic? That’s’ a clear liquid. I just hope this all serves as penance for my sins.

The next morning the temperature was a sphincter-clenching 9 degrees below zero. Not exactly conducive to mentally preparing for someone going all up in there with camera attached to a tube. I reported to the hospital at 7:45 AM and ran the gauntlet through admissions, which was more like a series of interviews in which they repeated the same questions.

“Have you recently undergone any medical procedures in North Korea?”

“Have you or any members of your family ever knowingly worn spandex bicycle shorts, tube socks and a mullet in public?

“Do you have any foreign objects lodged in your rectum, including, but not limited to, fruits, vegetables, small mammals or action figures?”

Of course one of the high points of the entire experience is rocking the skimpy, floral print gown that’s open in the back. I could have just worn assless chaps to the party.

put_the_assless_chaps_on_dog_tshirt

After all that, the actual procedure only takes about 15 minutes. There was one final round of interview questions by my physician as I was being sedated. I remember saying that I might need more drugs because I wasn’t really feeling anything, then BAM! I was out like a drunken sailor on shore leave. The next thing I remember was waking up feeling like I’d been roofied in The Hangover. Only I wasn’t lying face down in my own drool and there was no tiger. I hardly recall anything that was said about the procedure other than they discovered the lost continent of Atlantis in my colon. I’m working on a six figure deal with National Geographic right now.

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