First Line (of the lead-off short story “Dredging up the Dead”): October 25. Days at sea: 9
I typically love short stories, and Poe and Lovecraft have a special place in my heart, so I was fully expecting to devour this collection in a couple of days.
Yeah, that didn’t happen. In fact, after the first three or four stories, I found I was having to force myself to sit down and read. So I stopped reading this title about halfway through. I tried to finish it. I wanted to finish it. But I just couldn’t do it. Life is too short to read bad books.
Mr. Schnarr’s subject matter isn’t so much shocking as it is revolting and, often times, stupid. Now I have no issues with controversial or disturbing imagery and plot lines so long as it is justified by characterization. In “Survival of the Fattest,” for example, a fat man decides to super glue his lips around a straw in an effort to lose weight. Such a stupid decision needs rather significant justification in the characterization. But it’s just not there. The focus of the story isn’t on the desperation revolving around such a decision, but rather the gruesome results of the decision. And without that justification, that characterization, the entire story becomes gratuitous and falls apart around itself.
The publisher’s description compares Schnarr with Poe and Guy de Maupassant, but that couldn’t be further from the case. Poe’s work, specifically, mirrored human nature and commented on both individual and societal conditions. Mr. Schnarr’s apparent focus throughout all of the stories (the ones I managed to make it through, anyway) seemed to be on disturbing (and often disgusting) imagery. From prison rape to cannibalism, his goal seems to be to shock the reader and elicit a response of “ewwww” without justification and without making any kind of thematic statement. The end result is a collection of stories with ridiculous premises and gratuitous imagery that is little more than an attempt to gross the reader out.
Things Falling Apart is a title to be avoided.