By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Now that is fun writing! ”Sedna the Sea Witch,“ the story of a man and a dog lost in Inuit territory, begins:
There being no medical clinic aboard an ice floe, he took up his hunting knife and cut off the gangrenous toes himself. Quimmiq, willing participant at all gustatory events, gulped them whole like Vienna sausages before settling expectantly on haunches made lordly by the act.
In all their variety, Spotte’s descriptions have a droll, New Gothic ring to them. Landscapes contain ”stands of white pine with branches made secund by the wind.“ And forests of ”hornwort . . . arise undulating out of the polysaprobic ooze.“ As delightful as this language is, it makes for a dense read at times, and eventually the mermaid device does wear thin through so much good service -- there are 15 stories in this collection, where 10 or 12 would have done nicely. Still, Spotte‘s talent is so unique and charming that finishing Home Is the Sailor, Under the Sea merely leaves one eager to seek out a copy of his previous collection, promisingly titled An Optimist in Hell.
Do I detect a trend? Perabo, Rhodes and Spotte all demonstrate admirably that there is life in the old device yet, at least in the hands of a skilled practitioner. It’s a pleasure to see writers with so much confidence in themselves that they‘re willing to play fast and loose with format, to risk telling a serious joke for the sake of entertaining enlightenment. These story collections are laugh-out-loud funny, in addition to tickling the literary bone -- suggesting that we may be in for a minirenaissance in truly comedic fiction. That’s a jolly prospect indeed for those of us who suffered silently through the earnest era of Raymond Carver and Anne Beatty, waiting for that happy day when we could sing, ”Ding-dong, the minimalist is dead!“