Pinkies by Shane Hinton

Book:  Pinkies

Author:  Shane Hinton

Type of Book:  Fiction, short stories, flash fiction

Why Do I Consider This Book Is Odd:  Because it’s not immediately clear which Shane Hinton wrote this book.

Availability:  Published by Burrow Press in 2015, you can get a copy here:

Comments:  Shane Hinton has a bit of Jon Konrath in him, or maybe Jon has a bit of Shane in him.  Or maybe they both have a bit of someone I have yet to read in them both. But this collection shows that Hinton has an eye and ear for the absurd in daily life, though he ventures into the speculative more than Konrath does.  And I only mention Konrath because I found myself chugging NyQuil Cough formula like it was soda the other day and ended up having a bad dream about that infant-mouse-covered snake on the front of this book.  In my dream the snake had charmed the mice like a sort of reptilian Charles Manson and they were ready to do his bidding, except I also think the snake was female. A lot of it I’ve forgotten, which is probably a good thing. But I did have the nightmare. That much I do know.

Before I begin to discuss this book in earnest, I want to mention that there is some interesting meta going on in this collection, and meta I have seen in other books recently.  I don’t think it’s happening enough to call it a trend, but this summer I managed to read three books wherein the characters were named for the authors.  Hank Kirton named a couple of characters in his short story collection Bleak Holiday after himself.  Brian Whitney’s Raping the Gods sports a protagonist named Brian Whitney, which may be because the book is autobiographical (and I am afraid to find out if it is indeed autobiographical).  And every male protagonist in Pinkies is Shane Hinton.  One story boasts dozens of Shane Hintons.

I can feel the desire to go on at extraordinary lengths rising up because I genuinely enjoyed this collection, so I’m going to limit myself to the stories I liked best.  Every story works on some level – there wasn’t a clunker to be found – but I decided to limit myself to four of the sixteen stories in this slim volume.  Let us all cross our fingers that such a measure keeps my verbosity more or less in check, but I think it’s safe to say this is going to be very long, because this is a good collection and because this is the first book review on Odd Things Considered and I feel self-indulgent with celebratory bookishness.

Bleak Holiday by Hank Kirton

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Bleak Holiday

Author: Hank Kirton

Type of Book: Fiction, short story collection

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd:  Because one of the stories ends with the following line:

And that guy turned out to be an asshole.

Availability: Published by Apophenia in 2014, you can get a copy here:

Comments:  Hank Kirton may be the best odd short story writer you’ve never heard of, and that sucks because he is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers.  This is a near-flawless collection of short stories.  Of course, since it is a small press release it could be better edited, but even with that caveat this is still an excellent book.  Kirton has a style that is immediately identifiable as being Hank-like, yet his stories cover a lot of intellectual and literary ground.  He handles magical realism in a manner that I generally don’t expect from male authors, and some of his stories reminded me a bit of the sort of work Amelia Gray puts out – a sort of amusing, fey and ultimately good-spirited weirdness.  Then at other times he manages the dark, nasty, post-modern flatness I associate with the mundane horror of A.M. Homes. His stories evoke some of the best work done by some of the best odd writers, infused with the uneasy strangeness and overall noir I’ve come to associate with Kirton’s work.  I fancy I can see the veins Kirton mines for inspiration – one story even reminded me so much of an old R. Crumb comic that I had to scour the Internet to make sure I was remembering it correctly – but who knows?  That’s the danger of writing – you never know what a demented Pflugervillian housewife will think of when she reads your stories.

Kirton’s voice remains very strong, even as he reminds me of other artists, and with one exception, every story in this collection soars because the eclectic nature of these stories definitely works in its favor.  And the one story I didn’t particularly care for was because of my own deep distaste for the old Nancy Drew books.  The story, “Janet Pepper, Girl Detective: The Mystery of the Kitchen Cabinet,” is a parody of those tiresome books with a very adult twist and I can see how it’s amusing and how others would find it very funny.  I just remember all those gormless books being foisted upon me in grade school and how awful I found them, how boring they were, like chewing microwaved oatmeal, so this parody wasn’t that subversive to me given how little I could tolerate the original source.

So with that criticism out of the way, let me discuss the stories that I liked best in this 21-story collection.

The Membranous Lounge by Hank Kirton

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: The Membranous Lounge

Author: Hank Kirton

Type of Book: Fiction, strange fiction, short story collection

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Well, the content is different enough from bizarro and straight-forward horror that I have a hard time defining it. Moreover, Jim Rose wrote the intro, so that in and of itself was likely going to be enough to label this book odd.

Availability: Published by Paraphilia Press in 2010, you can get a copy here:

Comments: This book showed up in my post office box one day. No e-mail preceded it, no note accompanied it, and I threw away the envelope before I determined who exactly sent it. I looked at the chimp on the cover, found myself in a disturbing eye lock and then put it at the end of the umpteen books I needed to tackle before I could, in good conscience, read it. When I finally picked it up again, I sort of dreaded reading it.

It was completely irrational because by the second story, I was hooked. These stories have a gritty, dusty desperation. They evoke a smell redolent of smoke, from both cigarettes and raging fires. They are deceptively simple, several packing a punch in the gut using the most basic of prose. These stories are about situations that I have never experienced yet somehow they seemed familiar to me. They are stories about hallucinations achieved through illness and drugs, and in this book there is little peace even as the writing is hypnotic and calm.

Kirton really does seem familiar to me even though his writing is not like any particular style I have encountered. There is something about his stories that reminds me of the kids who used to hang around behind the house I used to live in near the University of Texas, the old drunks who told me stories outside the food co-op, the blunted headcases who would hang out in Half-Price Books when it used to be on The Drag. For whatever reason, these stories captured a part of my memory, a time in my life about ten years ago, triggering parts of my memories that weren’t actually present in the stories. I wonder how many other readers might be affected this strange way, having completely unrelated memories come to mind when reading these stories. Maybe not many, but it was quite interesting to me how Kirton’s words served as unlikely keys to certain locks in my brain.