If you like your stories to follow a straight line, this quintuplet may give you whiplash. Each one invites you into an introspective world of intense emotions, whether for a woman, 4-track cassette, California in the 90s, or disdain for accordions and addiction aftermath. Plenty of play on wordplay suggest that these stories are best heard aloud, so either find someone to read to you, or try reading aloud. If aloud isn’t your jam but you love music, I’ve recommended a playlist accompaniment as you read, whether in your head or through actual speakers. Jarman’s poetry is interwoven in narrative, swaddled in man’s lust, thirst for lyrical movement, and predictable shortcomings. If you have the time, it’s a quick name-dropping read for postmodern appreciation.
Czech Techno transports us to Ireland with some in-fighting amongst the band and the presence of a distraction, a past relationship taking us through flashbacks before returning to present day where the narrative is still tripping over shards of what was broken. If background music were playing, you’d likely hear a downbeat ballad from The Cure.
I read Johnny Cash in the Viper Room while listening to “Johnny Cash: A Night to Remember” on vinyl thinking it would be the soundtrack to this heartbeat. Alas, no pulse as the themes included a deadening relationship, dead celebrity, and career decline in the form of Johnny Cash’s wispy grey hair charging through small town venues. Michael is haunted by Anna while indulging more word play (“a surfer, your server, a serf”). The now defunct Viper Room was made notorious, not just for the celebrity fare frequently photographed at 3am, but for the passing of River Phoenix in 1993, cemented by various drug of choice rumours on the sidewalk. Experimental jazz best describes the cadence for this piece.
The gem in this series of musical chairs is Pine Slopes, Sweet Apple Slopes. In musical parlance, this one starts with the catchy verse and to partially quote Blues Traveler, has the “hook that brings you back”. The wordplay now has rhythm. Sleep is an unattainable mistress at the Elephant Hotel, but there is the continued yearning for a woman, unrequited. Whether it’s Sally or the idea of a composite her is not always obvious. “We all know the snare inserts drama, tension.” I’d agree if this story moved to a drum corps beat, but there’s a mix of open high hat offbeats punctuated with crash cymbals, at the bar over drinks, upon discovery of a lightning crash recipient, and desperate words spoken. Recommended listening for this trip is Hotel Yorba by The White Stripes.
Choose any Lou Reed song while reading Harris Green Below the Christian Science Reading Room, a brief tour of gentrification clashing with drug overdoses, SROs, and homeless in a pricey west coast lifestyle postal code.
This collection closes with Nowhere Man’s Second Day at the Ruins. The volcanic ruins of Pompeii are tarnished with mundane tourist nuisances, while lava bubbles in the form of a fed-up lead singer. For the last recommended song on the playlist, 7 Seconds by Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry will give you all the feels.
About the author: Mark Anthony Jarman is the author of Knife Party at the Hotel Europa, My White Planet, 19 Knives, New Orleans Is Sinking, Dancing Nightly in the Tavern, and the travel book Ireland’s Eye. His novel, Salvage King Ya!, is on Amazon.ca’s list of 50 Essential Canadian Books and is the number one book on Amazon’s list of best hockey fiction. Mark is a graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a Yaddo fellow, and currently teaches at the University of New Brunswick. His Selected Stories is forthcoming from Biblioasis Press.
- Publisher : Anvil Press (Nov. 30 2020)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 96 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1772141380
- ISBN-13 : 978-1772141382
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