Monday, September 14, 2009

Standard by Greg Gerke

This is not the kind of work I usually like, but if I am cultivating an anti-aesthetic then it's a good place to start. (By anti-aesthetic I don't mean I will spend time writing about and publishing stuff that I don't like. I'm not opposed to negative reviews, but I do believe that engaging with work that's useless is useless.)

Back to the review. This piece of flash fiction, published recently on Night Train as one of their weekly offerings in that genre, brings us into a marriage. It's a first person narrative that swerves from a Kafka-cum-Bukowski description of employment at the post office to a paranoid and touching fantasy about his (presuming the narrator's male) wife's possible employment there too.

The pivot in the story, which features a hilariously, deliberately uninventive scene in which "we make love," is the question asked by the narrator of his wife. When he arrives home, she always takes the car out for eight hours. Is she waiting for him to return or waiting for the car, he wants to know.

Gerke distills the world of a couple into the words and actions of a few moments, and then the impressions their asses make on the sofa. My biggest problem is the ending's reference to "our slight, slightly broken bodies." That seems as soft as the couch.

The beginning promises something more bracing as an ending, something with a bit of the chill that Max Brod spent his life promoting. With the diversity of tones in this piece, it's not surprising that he found it difficult to pull off all of them. I will read more Gerke to pursue what he manages to accomplish on other subjects.

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