Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Months and Seasons, the second short story collection from Christoper Meeks, is a exceptionally entertaining and thought provoking offering from a gifted writer. The stories are often curious and clever, while hiding unexpected pockets of wisdom and philosophy. Through the use of an inventive method of storytelling, we meet people who struggle with the realities of existence in an often confusing world, trying to put the semblance of order to events that, for them, defy explanation. Here are curmudgeons and uptight husbands, grieving fathers and deceptive lovers, characters that could be people you know, enmeshed in the conflicts of the everyday. Many of the stories have clever asides dealing with controversial subjects like war, the economy, and violence. Though some of the stories are playful and comical, others deal with more frightening and murky subjects like mental illness and impending death. From the wildly absurd to the quiet fears we all harbor, the emotional range in this collection is impressive.
I enjoyed the more serious stories, as they showed tremendous insight into the way that people rationalize and cope with tragedies beyond their usual scope. One story that dealt with a set of characters who were plagued with doubts about their health had a palpable layer of tension running through it, and left me uncomfortably eager to see who would escape tragedy. All at once I was breathing a sigh of relief, while at the same time realizing that there was more uncertainty to come. Another, that dealt with a man whose mind was slowly unraveling, was genuinely chilling in it's conclusion. It was easy to see the downward spiral of madness in the character, who seemed so benign in the beginning. My favorite story was the bittersweet tale called Breaking Water. It was heartbreaking, and I found that the author is just as talented at writing from a woman's perspective as a man's. One of the stories was decidedly offbeat, reaching a finale that could be interpreted in several different ways, from laughable incredulity to a more somber revelation.
As a collection of stories, I found this book to be well balanced and gratifying. There was a pleasant mix of humor and seriousness that seemed to encompass a huge variety of emotions, from fear and suffering to acceptance and glee. At the very end of the book, the author included the first chapter of his work in progress, a novel written in short story form that follows a young man throughout his complicated life. I found this chapter to be very well rounded, and the main character to be someone who I would like to get to know better. There was a fullness to this story I really enjoyed, and I will be looking forward to reading this novel when it comes out. I had not read the first collection of Meeks' short stories, called The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and am now quite curious about that book as well. All in all, an interesting read. Bonus points for the insanely cute cover.