by J. Robert Lennon
These extremely short pieces read like overheard stories, or feel like they could just as easily start with “did you hear about the guy who…” They are easy reads, and though some might have a bit of a sting or offer something deeper that stays, mostly the effect is like eating potato chips absent-mindedly out of the bag: you eat more than you think you will because they’re tasty and it’s easy to keep going.
Lennon grouped his stories into themes (town and country, mystery and confusion, lies and blame, work and money, parents and children, artists and professors, doom and madness) which makes them sound heavier and more profound than they are, I think. Not a bad idea, just these are comfortable bits, dispassionately told, in a rhythm that won’t stop you in your tracks or make your heart beat too fast. They don’t offer brilliant insights or perfect phrases that will vibrate in your head, but are curiously enjoyable just the same.
Apparently Lennon worked on these stories during long walks. They are remote, rolling, like a good walk in the country — you can even sort of take one yourself with the book, as a strolling figure is printed on the lower right corner of the pages, like a stop motion flip book. I liked reading them in short bursts on the subway, on the shuttle bus, or when I had just a few minutes. They don’t have real character development, they don’t seem like they should be remarkable or compelling, but somehow they are — I kept reading one after the other. There’s something in the way the stories resonate, they offer points to reflect how we’d do things differently, or how this couldn’t happen to us, or how it could happen to us, maybe…
Like potato chips, these anecdotes are the perfect thing when you are in the right mood.