Thursday, June 10, 2004

Horses Blow Up Dog City and Other Stories, by Richard Butner

Richard Butner makes a mean martini. He also has a kick-ass story in the new Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and you should read it.

This chapbook collects five of Butner's stories: the title piece, "Drifting," "Lo-Fi," "Ash City Stomp," and "The Rules of Gambling." "Horses Blow Up Dog City" is the story of a puppeteer, a lighting technician, and an antiques dealer--but really, it's about loneliness, achingly so. All of these pieces are about connecting, or rather, failing to; the characters are either unable to reach out, or they go about it all wrong. "Drifting" (previously published in Say . . . What Time Is It?) is a rip-roarer about a waiter who wins a Zen Mistress. It's hilarious but unsettling. The protagonist, Jay, is at a tipping point, and it's not clear whether Rancis ("like Francis without the F") is capable of righting him again.

"Lo-Fi" reads like a chapter out of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, perhaps intentionally? It's not really about music, but it concerns performance, taken to the extreme. The sadness here is stunning in the sense that you may not notice it until it knocks you on your back. Blame it on the paparazzi. "Ash City Stomp" appeared in Trampoline, which you should own. (No excuses now. It's for your own good.) This story has the Devil in it, or someone who thinks he is the Devil. Everybody's writing Devil stories lately--this is not a bad thing. Butner's Devil wears a red union suit and has acne scars, and he may not be such a bad guy after all.

"The Rules of Gambling" bears some similarities to "Drifting." Both have middle-aged female guide characters, and both have hopeful-or-is-it endings. But they both take very different routes to get there. (I'll give you a hint; one involves whiskey.) I'm tempted to say that Butner saved the best for last here, but that would suggest that the other stories here haven't stayed with me, and they have. Enough raves. Buy it, read it, enshrine it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey. Saw your bit about fonts at the end LCRW. nIcE.

doug lain

7:11 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Right back at you, Mr. Doug: "Music Lessons" is up to your usual standards of "What the . . .?" Wonderfulness.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See, I thought I was being straightforward.


9:45 PM  

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