Saturday, April 26, 2008

Catching Up


There's no time like your wife being in surgery to catch up on some reading.

No, nothing real major this time. Peg's eyelids were drooping to the point they were cutting off her peripheral vision, so they did a trim job. She's recovering nicely.

I have gotten hopelessly behind in my reading this year. I've spared way too little time for it, and my eyes have gotten so worn out from the intensive computer work I do at my office job (not to mention my writing) that even when I have time, I can't read very long without going cross-eyed.

But while sitting in the waiting room, I took a few books with me, and number one on the list was Beth Massie's Brazen Bull — which has been sitting on the top of the stack for way too long.

This is a nicely produced little chapbook from White Noise Press, with illustrations by Keith Minnion. And if you've ever visited Beth Massie's home, you'll know immediately where the cover art came from.

Ms. Massie's characters are people we know. No; actually, they're just us — normal people living lives with ups and downs, the latter of which have overtaken the people in Brazen Bull to the point that they are close to falling apart. Down the street, an odd set of neighbors has moved in, and from our family's "reasonable" perspective, they seem rather sinister.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Dorrie, a teenage girl with a good heart but a perspective skewed by the darker thoughts of her troubled father. He's not one of those ubiquitous terrible men that often populate horror tales; the dark thoughts that run through his head are thoughts any of us might have if suffering his circumstances. Some are born of prejudice, some are born of desperation. Massie brings everything down to a personal level, putting us, as readers, right smack in the middle of the family's plight, and it makes us damned uncomfortable.

The resolution left me feeling a little hurt inside. Not due to any shortcoming but due to my caring enough about the characters to hope for them. But no, this is a Beth Massie story. She's going to take you into the darkness and make you feel it. And if you know her work, you know this going in.

Brazen Bull is very short, and it feels as if it ought to be bigger, or a part of something bigger. That's not a bad thing — just a result of the tale drawing me in so thoroughly and kicking me around a bit.

I'm not sure whether copies of the chapbook are still available, but it's a nice little package. If you can find one, grab it.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Massie said...

Thanks for this, Mark. And for those who are interested, there are copies to be had still, here at the White Noise Press site:

http://www.whitenoisepress.com/brazen-bull.html

Beth