A Review of Hoopty Time Machines

 

There is a simple test for a truly enjoyable story: that’s the one you want to re-read, maybe even several times. Most stories in this collection meet this tough criterion. They answer the three necessary questions of any fiction: who, what and why. Who are the protagonists, what are they yearning for, and why would we, the readers, care?

Flash fiction can be top-heavy, but this collection appeals to all parts of the brain from top to bottom and visa versa.  All stories are short, which has to be expected from flash fiction, but some are one-sentence long, and this sentence is just the right length.

This slim volume is the best flash fiction collection I’ve read so far, and I read many as a reader, writer and editor. Some stories are dreams, some nightmares, most slide into grotesque and melancholy, and all are simple, down-to-earth, intellectual fun told in a wry, fast moving ahead voice. Yes, the story may move ahead fast, but that doesn’t mean they arrive anywhere. At least not in the place we can recognize or expect. Who would want it otherwise? Unless you enjoy a cozy, beaten up cliché and love to close a book with the satisfying grin: I knew the ending all along.

Christopher is at ease with any protagonist: named, unnamed, male, female, composite ‘we’ (his favorite) and even abstractions. Seemingly, in the stories of this length, the reader has no time to get acquainted with the protagonist, let alone the secondary characters, but Christopher’s magic make it happen. The readers root for a someone they just met and whom they are going to part with a page or two later. It might take a novelist a hundred pages to accomplish this.

In the afterword to the collection, Christopher argues with himself whether or not his stories are sad. The simple answer is that some are and some aren’t. The Bride of Frankenstein, a misshapen tribute to Tammy Wynette’s Stand by your Man, is definitely uplifting in its own, grotesque way.

“During the sex scandal, the Bride of Frankenstein stood by her man, silent and strong.”  That’s the entire story, dear reader. Kudos.

If you are looking for more precise definition than yes and no, then bizarre and thought-provoking are more important keywords to many if not most of Christopher’s stories.

In one of my favorites, The Trolls, the protagonist’s parents have been eaten by a pair of trolls who took over their lives and not quite artfully impersonate them. The protagonist and his girlfriend spend a night on the pile of bones that may or may not be that of his parents. Next day, they are fed a lost dog for dinner. The protagonist is frightened, but in a very detached, melancholic, abstract way. His girlfriend enjoys the bizarre event and when the protagonist runs away, she stays behind with the trolls. The plot might sound bizarre but it deftly follows its internal logic.

In the title story, the dad is trying to fix a car that is really a time machine, and then he finally succeeds, he travels back in time to correct his past mistakes.

This collection will introduce the neophytes to the genre of flash fiction but will also appeal to the experienced practitioners in equal measure.  You don’t need to be grown up to read it. If anything, it might make your reading more difficult. Enjoy it. I did.

 

Hoopty Time Machines 
Fairy Tales for Grown Ups
Christopher DeWan
Story/Flash Fiction Collection
ISBN: 978-0-9915469-6-1
An Atticus Trade Paperback Original
$14.95
Publication date: September 2016

About Mark Budman

Mark Budman was born in the former Soviet Union. His writing appeared in Five Points, PEN, American Scholar, Huffington Post, World Literature Today, Daily Science Fiction, Mississippi Review, Virginia Quarterly, The London Magazine (UK), McSweeney's, Sonora Review, Another Chicago, Sou'wester, Southeast Review, Mid-American Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Short Fiction (UK), and elsewhere. He is the publisher of the flash fiction magazine Vestal Review. His novel My Life at First Try was published by Counterpoint Press. He co-edited flash fiction anthologies from Ooligan Press and Persea Books/Norton. http://markbudman.com




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