Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Holler by Marge Fulton

NOTE: The Holler was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by BlackWyrm Books.

BlackWyrm has been batting .500 for me. Gram’s Secret was a wonderful fantasy tale, while The Hualapai Cycle just didn’t do it for me. However, the very short stories making up Marge Fulton’s collection of Appalachian horror stories, The Holler, looked very interesting, and I wanted to give them a look. Short bits on each story:

“Black Santa”: A girl’s stolen toy deeply influences her adulthood.

“Preying Hands”: A new “fat camp” that takes people into space is headed for some trouble of its own.

“Blood Bank”: ATMs begin giving far more than money.

“The Flock”: A dream-like tale of flight and job-hunting.

“In Line at Kingdom Come”: Plagued by guilt over his daughter’s death, a man waits in line to get into Heaven.

“At the End of the Day”: An old man gets revenge on the granddaughter of his abuser.

“Black Eyed Susan”: A marriage on the rocks meets Bigfoot.

“Bobble Head”: A small, human like creature helps a girl’s mother.

“People Eaters”: A victim of alien abduction tries to live a normal life.

“Blue Lips”: A dead wife refuses to go without some revenge.

“Recycling Ruth”: With a double-meaning title, this story follows Ruth, a recycling over-doer.

“Gather Round”: Art, cooking, and a near-death experience.

“Little Secrets”: A lady “adopts” the son she never knew she had.

“Mandy’s Mercantile”: A cheating husband becomes of more value to the store.

“Eye Box”: An artifact shows one woman a whole new world.

“Splinter”: The cost of stealing just went up.

“Wick”: One woman finds her soul mate selling candles.

“Bubby’s Brain”: Government conspiracy at the free clinic.

“Gunfight at the Goodwill”: One boy’s curiosity brings the Goodwill store to life.

“The Chosen”: The trees are tired of being abused, and one father pays the price.

“Hot to Trot”: A dead girl saves the living.

“Scary Perry”: A disturbed man explains how he didn’t kill his uncle, although if he had it wouldn’t have bothered him.

“Sow Belly”: A knife is the trigger to escape.

“When Your Ship Comes In”: One girl tries to leave her boyfriend behind and steal an alien spaceship.

These stories average 3-4 pages. In a way, they reminded me of The Twilight Zone, short glimpses into a world like our own, but altered in some subtle way. The good in that: each story was a neat little blip of something wrong, something under the surface of the world that was angry and ready for change. The bad: there isn’t space to get attached to characters, nor do most of the stories have much in the way of plot. Many of them are more scenes, a day-in-the-life style look at a crazy, Kafkaesque universe. Some of the stories are brilliant (i.e. “At the End of the Day,” my favorite of the collection), and some are odd and unaffecting (“Scary Perry,” my least favorite).

This book was a nice montage of steps out of the norm, away from a happy reality, and I think it was effective in some part because the collection itself is quite short. A large assemblage might have been too much of what Fulton is presenting, but this length worked perfectly for her short-shorts and short stories. There is an underlying mood throughout, as well as a lot under the surface of things that might take a second read to completely parse out. Easily read in an afternoon, and a bit of a change up from the usual horror genre in a sort of literary, highbrow way, this is worth sitting down and exploring, although if some of the stories don’t do much for you, I imagine that is the name of the game. I would be curious to see what Fulton would do with a longer piece, and extended narrative with characters in need of developing and a plot that needs to push things along. But until then, this piece of images into a darker parallel was a nice diversion.


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