Cannibals, by Jen Conley … a collection of gritty short stories from, according to Wiki, a heavily forested area of coastal plain stretching across more than seven counties of southern New Jersey. Most of us know of the Pine Barrens from a favorite Sopranos episode wherein Paulie and Christopher get lost after trying to whack a Russian mobster.
Conley’s stories are my kind of stories; dark, with a touch of hope, whether it gets crushed out or simply fades … and some of the open endings leave you to thinking about more. Much like my last read and review, Joe Clifford’s, December Boys, Cannibals is a series of verismo operas, one after another. The stories first appeared in Thug Lit, Beat to a Pulp, Yellow Moma, Out of the Gutter, Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey Present: Both Barrels, All Due Respect, Trouble in the Heartland, Literary Orphans and Needle: A Magazine of Noir.
Home Invasion starts the collection and sends a distinct message to the reader: Be prepared, MF’er, this ain’t no cozy you’re reading. I particularly enjoyed this story because I had a night to think about it. I took a look at the index and saw the title, and it made me think back to a time when I sat with two fellow wannabes, one of whom had an idea for a home invasion. It might well have been a test for me; to see if I’d go along, but I’m still proud to say if it was a test, I failed with flying colors. “No way,” I remember saying. “That’s a no-no for me.” One of them agreed and I was never asked again, nor do I know if there ever was one, and/or, if it was ever pursued. The idea of hurting someone in their home over coin or jewelry is probably the most despicable thing I can think of (along with ripping off the elderly in stock scams). Anyway, Conley’s Home Invasion does justice to Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River. No spoilers here, so you’ll have to buy the book and read it cover to cover—and you really should. The casualness of life can sting worse than stepping on a beehive ... and sometimes there's just no justice anywhere.
Cannibals involves a young girl who separates from her cousin and his friend after being teased about the cannibals in the woods. She’s anxious to assert her independence and she’s a fast runner, but then she finds herself caught in the clasp of a pack of hobos living in the woods. You’ll feel the terror this kid fears and you’ll be afraid for her the same way you’d be afraid as a young kid being terrorized by adults living in, and smelling of, squalor and cheap booze.
Howling deals with a female officer answering a call from an elderly man hearing howls in the woods. She’s having a tough time since losing a husband to a car accident and sometimes answering calls like these can make a cop feel foolish, except sometimes there’s more to the call and what might happen going forward. Life can get lonely a lot sooner than we’d all like to think.
Pipe deals with a young African-American kid in need of retribution for the humiliation he suffers at the hands of a bully, but there’s more to the story, including how relationships between teachers and students, and/or teachers and those marked as lost, evolve and resolve. It’s a surprise ending that caught me off guard and made me enjoy it all the more.
Metalhead Marty in Love the preverbal dorky musician in love with the girl he can’t have … until he can, and then … this one will make you feel it in the gut (unless you’re a sociopath).
June is the daughter of a woman earning her coin as a hooker, and when the girl makes a mistake taking what isn’t hers, the harsh realities of life below the poverty line appear in all its ugliness. People are at their Thomas Hobbes state of nature worst, living a life that is in fact solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
Circling deals with another female officer whom has recently lost her husband. She’s called with a younger cop to a domestic disturbance situation where she recognizes the perp, a man she grew up with and once had a brief relationship with. He’s trying to get busted from fear of presumed gangsters he owes … the background to both characters bubbles throughout. A real good read.
Eleanor … geez, this was my favorite in the collection, especially because of the way I thought something worse than what had already happened was about to happen. This one involves elderly people living in trailer homes, a murder, and an incredibly well told tale of what the elderly have to deal with both emotionally and physically. Terrific read.
Escape … a thriller from the opening page … a woman escaping a jealous ex-boyfriend she’s provided with a restraining order … page turner right to the end.
Milk … at first when I read the title, I thought Harvey Milk, but no, that’s San Francisco and a long time ago now. This one is a wild ride with a guy told to pick up a container of milk by his often bizarre dad, although they’re on good terms of late … he goes out with a friend and they do a few lines, and even though he’s got something to his future, well … what sometimes happens in life happens.
Debbie the Hero … hey, every grandmother should be like this one … her granddaughter has strayed into the arms of a local dipshit and is pregnant … no spoilers here, but here’s a woman who’s done her time (not prison time, life), and she reflects on enough of it to keep the readers’ eyes on page through to the ending. Real good story. Second favorite so far.
Next up is the Springsteen song made famous: It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City … but I’m about to read that one now and need to post this review up from fear of the ton of stuff I have to do over the next few days getting ready to revisit New Hampshire with Tommy Red. Needless to say, you have more than enough here to be enticed with … it’s a terrific collection of short stories and I’m sure glad I stumbled upon it on Facebook. Actually, I found it on another terrific writer’s blog, Dana King’s One Byte at a Time,where I read the interview he did with this wonderful collection’s author, JenConley.
Trump v. Sanders (the great debate) … Well, it would be kind of fun to watch these two. All Trump could do with Bernie is continue to call him a crazy communist, but that’s because he doesn’t have any dirt on the man … and let’s face it, Trump understands as much about political ideology as he does about running a casino.
On the other hand, Bernie could let the Orange Blowhard go off the rails a time or two and then turn to him, shake his head, and say: “You really are a moron.”
It probably won’t happen because the Orange Blowhard has balls the size of split peas … his dodge of the Vietnam war over a foot injury (he couldn’t remember which foot) spoke volumes, but what was even better was his shitting his pants when a protestor tried to gain his stage and/or the eagle he had brought in for a photo op nearly gave him a stroke. You can find both on Youtube … under Eagle Scares Trump.
In the meantime, Senate Democrats are furious with Bernie for even entertaining the idea of a debate. They conveniently ignore that fact that their choice for establishment president, Lyin Crooked Hillary, doesn’t have the guts to honor her promise to debate before California … or she’s just too busy hiding behind her staff and letting them magnify the lies about the IG’s report on her email debacle.
The hysterical lemming left runs home to Momma & Poppa (the party). Remember that great opening to The Newsroom, when Jeff Daniels ticks off why America is no longer the greatest country in the world? I really miss that show, but to the point: There’s a rant he does when he turns to the woman representing the left and says, “If liberals are so fuckin’ smart, how come they lose so goddamn always?”
Well, let me offer one suggestion (smiley face). Upon further review of whatever election confronts them, the left can ALWAYS (not sometimes, not almost always, but ALWAYS) retreat to where they are most comfortable – in absolute hysteria. Nothing is funnier to me than watching so-called liberal democrats freak out come election time. Whether it’s a buffoon like Donald Trump (a.k.a., the Orange Blowhard), or John Kasich, or any other candidate who might’ve won the nomination, the one thing the Democratic Party can count on is its liberal base collectively shitting their pants and falling in line behind whomever they (i.e., the party) decides should be the nominee. In this instance, it’s a criminal with more bad baggage than most organized crime family bosses (i.e., she’s responsible for a lot more death and income inequality than the mob).
Does anyone really believe the Orange Blowhard is the glue holding Democratic loyalists/lemmings in place for this coming election. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, wrong. We’d be hearing the same exact thing no matter which GOP nominee won. To wit: Oh, no, we can’t let the Republicans win! They’ll destroy everything we’ve accomplished! The world will be at risk. We’ll be set back 100 years! The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer and they’ll even rewrite the constitution by placing conservative judges on the bench, and so on.
And to that I say: Ronald Reagan was the most destructive force for the middle class in my voting lifetime … yet we’re still here. What happened post-Reagan has made things a lot tougher for the middle class, and it wasn’t just from the GOP that the economic shit storms were delivered.
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall?
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA into law?
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who instituted welfare reform?
Wasn’t it Bill Clinton who passed the anti-minority crime bill?
How many Democrats endorsed the war with Iraq?
Wasn't it Obama who gave away the store during the bailout?
Wasn’t it Obama who maintained the Bush tax cuts?
Wasn’t it Obama who went back on his word to fight for unions?
Did the income inequality gap widen or shrink during the last 7 years?
Isn’t it Obama sending troops back to Iraq?
Isn’t it Obama sending troops to Syria?
Isn’t it Lyin’ Crooked Hillary Clinton who wants a no fly zone over Syria?
Isn’t it Lyin’ Crooked Hillary who supported NAFTA and the TPP (before she was against it, and make no mistake, she’ll find it GOLD all over again if given the opportunity)?
Isn’t it Lyin’ Crooked Hillary who was more comfortable with a $12.00 minimum wage rather than $15.00
Did the conservative majority Supreme Court uphold the ACA twice (for the sake of insurance companies, perhaps, but they upheld it)?
Did the same court deliver marriage equality?
Hysteria, that’s what way too many so-called liberal democrats yield to every single presidential election cycle. It’s how they react to pretty much everything political. Rather than fight within their own party to insist on a progressive agenda (not the bullshit convention platform everybody knows is ignored the day after it’s created), but an actual progressive voice, one that has a say in future policy, the idea of risking a single election cycle (or two), brings on massive diarrhea … they shit their brains out and immediately run home to Momma and Poppa – the party officials who have taken them for granted ever since 1968, after which they created the super delegate system that declares: We don’t give a shit who you voted for or who you want, we’ll make that decision for you. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said exactly that when she declared: “Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists.”
Imagine that, the grass roots getting what they voted for?
This is why Bernie or Busters (many of whom had to switch their political affiliation from Independent to Democrat just to vote for Bernie due to closed primary states) aren’t going to vote for Lyin’ Crooked Hillary. Whether they mail in Bernie’s name or vote for Jill Stein or protest vote for the Orange Blowhard … it has to do with sending a very clear message to the DNC. We’re not going to shit our pants and get in line. Either take us serious or lose us. That’s your choice. We’ve already made ours.
The Sopranos ... Pine Barrens …