Spouses & Other Crimes (Paperback)
Stark House Press, 9781933586694, 158pp.
Publication Date: May 5, 2016
Spouses & Other Crime
In this wittily titled, career-spanning collection, Andrew Coburn uncovers and lays bare the compromises and motivations that push us, stumbling, through the mire of daily life, whether in the backwaters of hometowns or out there in a wider world. We open with a story of small town back in the 1960s, a disturbing story, transportable to any decade, anywhere. The viewpoint of a 12-year-old boy melds, seamlessly, into that of the boy now become a man, struck with the realization that the past is coming back to threaten a terrible disruption. The eponymous anti-hero, Charlie, once "a fifty-year-old slip of a fellow, brittle and bird-like, created, it would seem, out of chewed chicken bones," returns, chillingly: "sugar-coated now, with little blue eyes like a pervert's."
Coburn proceeds to take us on journeys of, at best, questionable motives. Broken dreams, stained war records, nuggets of hope built around a family get-together--this is human life as we know it to be. Out final stop is the enigmatic "Plum Island" where taciturn men gather to fish in futility. It's a closing vignette that hints at so much, and leaves so many questions nagging at our brains. Perhaps the solution lies in the choice we make every day, the simple imperative to "Carry on, son."
This is long overdue rounding up of some of the best short fiction of one of America's most stylish writers. Dip in cautiously; digest with slow relish.
Essayist, award-winning London anthologist