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Bag O' Goodies is a collection of short stories and poems, some based on true events, that showcase an array of topics and themes. These pages contain tales of where late nights go wrong, scary neighbors prove their scariness, motorcycles rule, and deep arguments hit deeper topics while in the line of duty. This proverbial bag has quite a scent. Poems are included for added aroma!
This spirited miscellany from Bittick, author of the striking military-life hangout novel Cape Henry House, makes its intentions clear both from its title and its dedication page, which reads like an inviting toast: “To voluptuous variety: the spice of life.” Toastmaster Bittick follows it with a laddish poem linking loving a book to losing one’s virginity then a raucous tale of drinking, cornhole, potential hookups, and getting pulled over. (“I’m good” is the narrator’s answer to the question “do you consent to a field blood alcohol content test?”) The chatter of men, boys, and man-boys powers many of the tales that follow, which examine, with an empathetic lack of judgment, the behavior of seamen, neighborhood kids, young men just a little too old to go “cruising,” and other fundamentally innocent types who get in over their heads and live to tell about it.

As in Cape Henry House, Bittick demonstrates a rare ear and keen eye for all that’s comic, bittersweet, and occasionally alarming when groups of boys get to carrying on. His chatter, at bars and Naval bases, rings true, as his characters crack at each other and never quite say out loud the deeper things they’re feeling. Also as in the novel, the amusing conversations at times can drift toward aimlessness, which means they’re more accurate than most depictions of military life even when–especially when–they come at the expense of narrative momentum.

Still, Bittick excels at capturing the way good (or good-ish) times can spin out of control. It’s a relief, then, when despite “AR-15’s, handguns, and a shotgun or two” the three-part, novella-length motorcycle epic “Blue Ridge Riders” ends on a note of hope rather than violence or despair. The poems, meanwhile, range from deadly earnest to wickedly playful, demonstrating that structure sharpens rather than dulls the wit that pulses in all those shaggy dialogue scenes.

Takeaway: These vivid stories and poems of military and motorcycle life pulse with convincing comic dialogue.

Great for fans of: T.C. Boyle’s Greasy Lake and Other Stories, David Abrams’s Fobbit.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: B+