Blurry And Disconnected: Tales of Sink-or-Swim Nihilism
Dave Riley
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Blurry And Disconnected: Tales of Sink-or-Swim Nihilism
Dave Riley
Lulu Press
164 pages
May 2005
rated 2 of 5 possible stars
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The first problem here is the title - while intriguing and eye-catching, it's difficult to understand what it's really meant to convey. Is the author telling us that an acceptance of the world is necessary in order to swim and not to sink? And if so, what or who is blurry and disconnected?

Comprised of a pair of short stories and, apparently, a novella, truly we come to understand the first adjectives in the book's title - the abridged tales having nothing to do with the longer piece. Except there is a lot of very bad and colloquial-stained dialog trying to pass itself as inside, insightful, and inspired conversation.

Actually, the first story here, "Make Mine A Chocolate Eclair," has a dark and sympathetic interest about it. The Good Humor Man, the ice cream truck man, has "shoulder-length hair (that) was stringy and unkempt, he was always unshaved, and the condition of his teeth betrayed the fact that he'd never visited a dentist in his life. And he only had one arm: the right." This is funny; dark and twisted in a Twilight Zone sort of way, this invididual is extraordinarily rude to the little tykes who come to buy their sweet treats from him. And they like that. He is mistakenly accused by the neighborhood parents of an obscene act and is replaced with a "blonde, blue-eyed" Stepford-type ice cream man - and he ultimately ends up smashing a chunk of ice over the head of the neighborhood bully. Irony. Twisting of reality.

Then the novella begins, a meandering, lifeless and truly plastic rendering of the world of rock and roll. Titled "Chinese Finger Puzzle," this makes a half-hearted stab at trying to portray music clubs and musicians, and rock journalists writing for those obscure and typically terribly-written little fanzines.

The danger in writing this type of story is combining fact with fiction, trying to describe the workings of rock bands and giving them these fictitious names but at the same time attempting to deliver us sufficient information that we, the reader, might make an educated guess as to whom the writer is truly talking about. It rarely works, and this one doesn't come close, because the author, apparently a musician himself, has made the big leap of trying to mix in real bands like U2 and Nine Inch Nails. This never works.

If Riley is a musician, either he doesn't listen to the cadence and manner in which real musicians speak or he's simply not a very inspired writer. In the book, a column one of the characters writes is called "Up Your Ass." Of all the millions of words in the world, this is what he feels best conveys the attitude of his book.

There's not much else to say here; fun ideas poorly executed. Oh, the final story in the book is titled "Bizarre and Majestic," and though it's only seven pages long, it's still impossible to extract a point or theme anywhere. This sounds like needless attacks on a writer starved for talent, but this book is truly a terribly played riff.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2005

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