Dunlap runs the short-story format through the wringer by offering a variety of storytelling approaches and playful experiments, switching between first and third-person narrators, disrupting the narrative timeline of some pieces by flashing forward, writing in dialect and exploiting the possibilities of footnotes, and crafting some abbreviated entries that run three pages or less and will strike readers, based on their inclinations, either as energizing and enigmatic or cryptic and abrupt.
Whatever the length, Dunlap’s male characters tend to be more detailed and multi-dimensional than his female ones. While readers looking for nuanced depictions of sex and romantic relationships may be disappointed, Dunlap’s mischievousness, sardonic humor, and unabashedly masculine point of view complement the stories’ raw, passionate nature. (Sometimes too raw, as with the muddy ford described as “iwde and wet in an almost sexual sense.”)Themes of sex, betrayal, revenge, and death resonate, and the continual focus on these them makes the stories that diverge, such as “Unearned Intimacy,” a thought-provoking meditation on race and communication, and “Baby and Black Crows,” a sweet tale of a gay couple contemplating having children, all the more refreshing and memorable. Dunlap winks at humanity’s foibles and revels in its sins.
Takeaway: Readers up for a bawdy romp through the rougher edges of the human experience will appreciate this collection’s candor and irreverence.
Great for fans of: Barry Hannah, Donald Barthelme.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A