Sunday, July 07, 2013

Independent book review: Stories My Evil Twin Made Up

I have a major problem with Scott Morgan’s writing. There isn’t enough of it, especially fiction.
I understand Morgan’s dilemma. He has a day job, and a blog and a Twitter feed and a life with a family; he has also published writer’s guides, Character Development fromthe Inside Out and How To Be A Whiny Beeyotch: 71 Writing Excuses Meet the Back of My Hand. He has appeared on this blog, with a guest post and as the object of a review of his previous collection of short stories and poems, Short Stack.

I really enjoy Morgan’s fiction. His writing style proves that he is the kind of writer who should be teaching others how to write.

Reading Stories My Evil Twin Made Up evoked a mixed reponse: it’s very good, but it’s very short. It’s kind of a “Best of Scott Morgan” album.

“There’s nothing new in here,” Scott Morgan admits immediately in the introduction to his new collection. All 10 short stories appeared in one of Morgan’s three previous collections, Short Stack, Tryptic or Love/Sex/Soul — but not everything in those three collections appears in the new book. “There is no poetry in here and a few stories didn’t make it. Because they suck.”

I miss some of the poems, particularly “One True Cat” from Short Stack. But there is much to enjoy in Stories My Evil Twin Made Up especially “The Price of Angie’s Ice Cream,” “Brown Paper Bags” and “Food and Hats” are all entertaining as well as insightful. They evoke that “yeah, exactly, I was there” response.

Morgan’s talent lies in writing precisely the words that bring the reader into the created reality. Every word rings true. Nothing is out of place, nothing is excessive, nothing is missing. This is exactly the kind of writing that all the writing courses and all the snootiest London and New York publishing houses say that they insist on (before publishing something by the latest celebrity bimbo).

It’s hard to say what’s my favourite story in here, but “Brown Paper Bags” probably hit closest to home. It’s a story about young boys reaching that age when they can no longer bring cartoon character lunchboxes to school, but have to use plain brown paper bags. And all the other symptoms of growing up to be the perfectly repressed North American males society demands we be.

Victor had seen the changeover coming. Had monitored the upper classes and seen the transition from Marvel Comics to plain brown wrapper. He was fine with it. Was, in fact, looking forward to it. And then his mother handed him a black tin lunch pail. Tin, like his Superman lunchbox from kindergarten. Only uglier. It looked like a little house. The kind of lunchbox he’d seen in cartoons from the fifties, when mesomorphs ate their lunches on orange girders sixty floor above the street.

But he could already see the look in her eye, ten years into the future. Misty. Reminiscent of a childhood gone forever. To tell her that this was the worst thing she could have done to him would kill her on the spot. So Victor took the little black house. And promised her he’d keep it safe. He would just have to keep it in his backpack and hope he never got searched by anyone.

“Yes,” I kept thinking. “That’s it exactly.”

The only failing to Stories My Evil Twin Made Up is that it’s too short. The paperback version has very wide margins (to those versed in graphic design, a very short measure). It’s obvious that Morgan was trying to pad out his page count (which he cleverly hid by not putting page numbers in the paperback). It’s unnecessary. Even if the book had one-third fewer pages, it would still be a respectable, if slim volume. This design makes the readers feel that Morgan is trying to fool us, somehow.

Brother writer, I respectfully propose another solution: write more stories!

The world will be a better place for them. 


You can find Stories My Evil Twin Made Up on Amazon.

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