Filed under: book reviews, short stories | Tags: christopher meeks, gender dynamics, months and seasons, short stories
I am a sucker for short stories. I adore the anticipation of the story, I get sucked into the reading process, and many short stories will plague me months and even years after I’ve put them down. This latter part is something I seldom experience with novels. I find short stories tickle my nerves and emotions that forces me to recollect them in the same way that a brief sensory experience – a man’s cologne, the smell after it rains – will suddenly return to me. So when I received a copy of Christopher Meeks’ collection Months and Seasons I was tremendously excited.
As individual stories, Meeks gives too much. At times the stories verge on becoming reports with a staccato rhythm of factual information and precise detail (with the one exception being Meeks’ dabble with his more surreal story “The Farms at 93rd and Broadway”). I wanted him to hold back and be sparing with some of his information. For me, this is often where the magic of short stories lingers. When I concluded the stories I didn’t have an urge to reread them, because each time I turned the page fairly confidently that I had figured it all out.
However, within these short narratives Meeks talent at exploring the power dynamics within relationships, almost exclusively between men and women, is fascinating. Of these eleven stories all of them provide a unique glimpse on the interaction of men and women. This is more obvious in some stories such as “Dracula Slinks into the Night” where a couple attends a Halloween party. As the story builds towards its climax chinks appear in their relationship providing an ever widening contrast between the more social, easy going wife who wants to have a baby and a more reserved, technically inclined husband who wants to know what the big rush is. After a near fatal incident the couple experiences a miniature existential crisis that ultimately allows them to slide together.
In contrast to this is, “The Holes in My Door” features an alienated man living alone. The women in his life are distant: his wife has divorced him and his girlfriend is a cyber image and a voice over the phone rather than a more solid personage entering his life. It’s a story of isolation and alienation and it’s befitting that the women are absent. By the conclusion of the story, our protagonist has physically, mentally, and perhaps emotionally barricaded himself off.
More or less the stories in this collection hit the ten-page mark though the two stories “The Sun is a Billiard Ball” and “Breaking Water” are substantially longer. “The Sun is a Billiard Ball” is perhaps my favorite story in the collection and provides “a day in the life of” intertwining of two families that ultimately have near misses until they collide at the end of the story. (Very Ulysses-esque, no?) Death is a constant companion of the story as a father fears cancer and a couple gets tested for HIV. Both are horrifying and the heaviness of the story is only relieved when one of the characters nearly dies. The reader is allowed a peculiar sense of relief between the alternatives of life being snuffed out immediately or smoking out over time.
“Breaking Water” had to have been my least favorite. I enjoyed the premise: an ex-supermodel has heart surgery and immediately after her husband leaves her as a result of their infertility. Now she must really face herself and position herself in a life, which leads her to signing up for art courses. I found the story flat and lacking animation. I felt Meeks at times attempted to interject depth when perhaps it would have been more meaningful for the reader to watch this woman flounder a bit more. (I swear I’m not a masochist!) Despite the baggage things simply work out too well and the plot unfolds too easily for my liking.
Months and Seasons was an enjoyable read and one that I finished with a smile on my face.