Courtney Eldridge
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the curledup.com RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *Unkempt* online


Courtney Eldridge
Harvest Books
276 pages
August 2005
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars
previous reviewnext review

Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Unkempt.

In this original, brilliant collection of short stories, New Yorker Courtney Eldridge offers us a twisted, askew glimpse into the darkest corners of the human mind and the fears of our present society. Eldridge does this with a razor-sharp eye, candidness, and a wacky sense of humor.

Unkempt has seven stories and one novella and presents an array of desperate and pathetic characters who either are trying to cope with the helplessness of their lives or are completely and painfully unaware of it: a blocked writer who systematically erases everything she writes, a woman who thinks there are sharks in regular swimming pools, a lady who is unaware she has obsessive-compulsive disorder, a clerk at a retail store who is accosted by demented customers, an alcoholic mother who can’t understand her daughter’s behavior, and an ex-porn star who now is trying to keep her first “real” relationship afloat. These are some of the characters you’ll meet in this darkly hilarious anthology.

The author’s writing style can be smothering at times, as no quotation marks or new paragraphs are used to separate dialogue. It is a clever technique to infuse the same feelings of “confusion” and “desperation” to the reader as the characters are feeling. That said, Eldridge’s writing is incredibly revealing and illuminating. In fact, the ability to combine these two aspects is Eldridge’s gift. The following passage, taken from “Sharks,” perfectly exemplifies the writing style used throughout the book:

“You honestly believe there are sharks at the Sol Goldman Y? I asked. It’s not about believing; it’s about my fear. This is my fear I’m talking about. I got that much, I said. Well, there you go, she said. You asked, I told you. No, you’re right, okay. But tell me this, what happens if you get into a swimming pool? I asked. I don’t unless I have to, she said. But if you went to a pool, wouldn’t you be able to see the sharks, swimming around in the pool? I mean, wouldn’t somebody notice that there was a shark in the pool? Or do they have a cloaking device, too? Very funny, she says, but the answer is no. No, you wouldn’t necessarily see them. They just wait, she said. You mean the sharks wait somewhere in the pool? I asked, clarifying again. Yes, she said. Where? Where would they wait, the drain? I don’t know where they might be waiting, see, that’s the thing. They could me waiting anywhere. Of course, I said.”
Some passages, like the one above, made this reviewer laugh out loud. Yet the message is undeniably troubling: people live in irrational fear these days, and this specific story can very well serve as an allegory for the present state of terrorism. Though Eldridge’s style is different in many ways, it is in some aspects similar to Tama Janowitz’s. Certainly both combine the sharp eye, dark hilarity, and askew angles of probing into the deepest corners of the human mind. If there’s only one negative comment to say about this collection, that would have to be a certain lack of versatility. The stories are original, but the “voice” behind all of them at times sound the same. However, this doesn’t take away the fact that Unkempt is an intriguing, fascinating anthology, one this reviewer is very glad to have read.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Mayra Calvani, 2005

buy *Unkempt* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.