Sometimes before, after, or during reviews of books I scribble my thoughts down on pieces of paper or make a tweet about a book. Usually this notation is just some random interesting fact that I wanted to specifically point out at the time and catalogue, whether or not I come back to this in the review isn’t always the case. However, for the review of Plow the Bones, I want to come back to a tweet I posted: “I was amazed at the continuous style and flow of the shorts within this novelized collection. While each piece is a wholly individual short story, it felt on some mysterious level as if they had always been intended to be published as one unique and brilliant collection.”
From the very first short, “Behindeye: A History”, to the sensory conclusion of artificial sentience, “Across the Dead Station Desert, Television Girl”, there lies a fine invisible filament, an inconspicuous strand, a fishing line woven through the very skin of Plow the Bones, that while it might not have been intentional at the time, this inconspicuous thread connects each and every short. By voice, style, pace, insanity, creativity, and brilliance, Plow the Bones was meant to be a collection of shorts. They all fit so seamlessly together it is astonishing, and yet somehow each one of them is so uniquely different.
Here I would normally go into dishing out fragment descriptions, teasers, and
review thoughts on each and every short within this collection, but I’m not
going to do that. WHY NOT? Well, because in all honesty, Apex Publication should
make each of these shorts available online in eFormat for $1.99, and after you
buy one or two of them, you are going to smack yourself in the head for not
purchasing the whole book in the first place.
So, let’s hit on a few of the absolutely fantastic shorts in Plow the Bones:
“Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy” is one of the best fucking shorts I’ve ever
read! Sorry for the expletive but in certain instances, like in this case, it
is deemed necessary. No ifs, ands, or buts, this short will tear you apart.
Cotton, is an old man with Alzheimer’s, and is slowly having his life and memory
ripped from his outstretched fingertips. In the end, there is but a single
exclamation point he hopes to recall before his light is extinguished. Simply
put, this is a million dollars short and I can’t urge you enough to just read
this one if anything else. I’ve shoved the book under my wife’s nose and yelled at
her, “Read this, just this one, pleaseeeee. YOU WILL LOVE IT.” Yes, it works.
“Old Roses” – I’m not sure why I liked this one so much, but I did, something in
the undertone-currents of the story, about whether to believe the main
character’s father’s autobiography or not. Old Roses is captivating and has
intrigued me, I just wish we knew just a little bit more about some of the other
characters in this, but the lack of certain details is most probably
intentional to allow the reader their own interpretations.
I’m also adding, “I Inhale the City, the City Exhales Me”, to this group. I
liked it before and I still enjoyed it the second time around, it is a very
refreshing read, I also find it a little less dark and slightly more
entertaining than some of the other pieces in this collection. Also, I would be
interested in knowing the timeframe in which some of these were written, because I feel
the location/setting and design of this short had a correlating connection
directly with “The Itaewon Eschatology Show”, more strongly felt than with any
of the others.
Now for my least favorite, which was “Funeral Song for a Ventriloquist”,
expectations play a huge role for me when grading books and stories. The
potential in this one, simply by title alone, with this story is gigantic and I
wish the premise would have went in a few other directions than the path it
inevitably angled down. “Funeral Song for a Ventriloquist” isn’t the first I’ve
encountered that raises my hopes to unattainable peaks and it won’t be the last.
Another note worth mentioning is I think Mr. Warrick might have missed his
calling as a professional torturer, the first paragraph of Zen and the Art of
Gordan Dracht’s Damnation is something else entirely. I really hope when we all
die, that if we are to be judged for our sins, whoever is delving out the
punishment hasn’t read Plow the Bones or we are in for some serious trouble.
My quest to familiarization with Plow the Bones by Douglas F. Warrick started
with, “I Inhale the City, and the City Exhales Me” in the Dark Faith:
Invocations anthology, then turned into an author interview, and finally a
read/review of the aforementioned book. The path this has led me on was
something of a dark and emotion-filled trail of self-enlightenment. During points
in certain stories I found myself questioning abstract ideas, viewing
engagements and life choices differently, bathing with turmoil in emotions of
horror, curiosity, and sorrow. Books leave bits and pieces of themselves inside
you, like black grit beneath your fingernails you can’t scrub away. Plow the
Bones was more akin to a thin sliver of glass then dirt beneath the nails, it
was a shard that sliced and embedded a piece of itself in my head where it will
forever rest. 9 out of 10 Liams for Plow the Bones and this is one I will
proudly rest ownership on, in my bookshelf and memory.
Thanks as always to the fantastic folks at Apex Publications for this review copy.