Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Foreigners, and Other Familiar Faces by Mark Rich

This is Number 5 in the Small Beer Press Chapbook Series (collect 'em all!), and it's a doozy. Mark Rich is one of those writers -- you know (maybe? I hope) how you meet some writers and talk to them and you think, "That's exactly right. I see where those stories are coming from." Their speaking voices, the rhythm of their speech, is similar to the rhythm of their writing, and you feel like you can see where they are coming from.

Mark Rich is not one of those writers. He's fairly quiet, for one, so there aren't a lot of hints of the depths of wonderful weirdness going on in his head. He bears a great responsibility, this man; he has all these secrets, these truths and lies entangled, inside his brain. If he were to describe them to you unfiltered, you would be left a gibbering wreck, a broken shell of a thing which clings to the brackish undersides of the Elder Gods. It is Rich's responsibility to put these truths into a form which those of us not gifted with his insight can process.

(That's my theory, anyway.)

These are beautiful stories, ranging from naked meditations on the mundane (e.g. "Wrong Door") to cautionary tales of seductive and savage nature ("Kiss of the Wood Woman," "Take Me") to biosampling ("On the Collection of Humans") to savage socio-political satire gentled by absurdity ("Ashes of Penis Thrown to Sea"). Themes of dislocation and disconnection recur throughout, and the natural world is pervasive, not as panacea (though it comforts, at times) but as it is: amoral, unapologetic, undeniable. There's a head-down, ignore-the-warnings ballsiness about Rich's writing as he ignores rules and conventions and does only what the story demands, dammit. You don't see that often.

So go now. Read Mark Rich. Remember: he's doing it for you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Circuitously discovered (from Harper's to Strange Horizons to here), all your stories have held and inspired me. Thank you!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

How kind of you to say so! My humble thanks.

3:45 PM  

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