Thursday, September 20, 2007
These short stories are published by Blue Cubicle Press and each has a theme. I read the first three (Tales From The Clinic will be released shortly): Tales From The Cubicle/ Classroom / Cash Register.
The one I enjoyed the least was Tales From The Cubicle, but don't blame the authors. I too was a cubicle slave for more years than I care to remember (okay, only four but it felt like a lifetime), and most of the stories brought back the anxiety and the meaninglessness of it all. Which is a great credit to the authors.
In Charles Conley's "Cubicles From This Angle" the sentence "Coffee rooms designed even more ingeniously than the cube unit, if you can believe it, for the simple reason that they imply ease, relaxation, a moment to yourself, but in fact suppress repose and banter." felt like an epiphany. I can't say how many times I cut my own fifteen minute breaks short because of a vague feeling of discomfort I couldn't quite place, and went back to my station early. Of course the company wouldn't want you to enjoy you free time and like an idiot I never realized this was a planned thing.
My favorite was "Cubed" by B. A. Goodjohn, not incidentally because her main character makes a run for it in the end of the story.
I was also a substitute teacher for half a school year but, while it was enough time to understand I would probably not enjoy it full-time (as I always said, mother), I didn't stay long enough to become bitter. Maybe that's why I enjoyed "Classroom" more: I experienced just a tiny bit of the hardship of teaching and cannot help but feel immense admiration for those who pursue it for decades. And I'm not talking about the new teachers who come in bright-eyed, believing they will change everything; I mean the ones who stay even though they understand they can change very little.
Kindergarten, primary school, high school and college. My favorite tales in this volume covered all the educational steps (respectively "Cupid's Chaos" by Helen Price Walters, "Resistance" by Dale-Marie Bryan, "Twenty-Five Pounds" by Christina Cabrera and Kenneth Pobo's "Friday Afternoon"). Bryan, Cabrera and Pobo all address, in various degrees of poignancy the dilemma of the teacher who feels useless in the face of the student's pain and disinterest, Walters' tale was pure, much needed, sweetness.
I tended to like the stories that presented the work in a straightforward manner better, while the more fantastic ones sort of went over my heart.
Finally, "Tales From The Cash Register". I never had that particular experience, so think what you may, but this was my absolute favorite. Working the register might be the more narrative friendly of these occupations or (very likely) I read these tales with rose tinted glasses on. Brian Brown's "Dinner Alone" and Michael Giorgio's "Killer Shift" are the most memorable, but I also loved Diana Eid's, Rose Gowen's and Robin Svedi's. Even Sierra Bellows' "Shift Work", with more of a bittersweet tone to it, felt cosy.
I couldn't help noticing that two short stories in different volumes start with the exact same sentence, maybe the result of a creative writing workshop. Most of the contributing writers are still struggling to make the pen their primary means of financial support, and just for keeping at it they deserve support. But regardless of that fact, there are many great tales here.