Eyeballs Growing All Over Me… Again by Tony Rauch

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Eyeballs Growing All Over Me… Again

Author: Tony Rauch

Type of Book: Fiction, short story collection, bizarro, gently odd

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It has enough qualities of bizarro and the gently odd that it is not mainstream reading fare.

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

Comments: I’ve read Rauch before and found his collection of short stories in the book Laredo to be serviceable and entertaining enough to be worthy of a good review. However, Eyeballs Growing All Over Me… Again is a better collection. Less verbose, less neurotic, more confident – this collection is all together a tighter, cleaner, more relevant book. Rauch’s confidence as a storyteller has improved since I last read him. His stories show their purpose without a lot of hemming and hawing, sometimes even eschewing what I would consider a typical ending or a normal resolution. Not every story in this collection worked for me, but those that did not strike a chord likely failed to reach me for subjective reasons. With one exception, there isn’t an objectively bad story in the bunch.

That is not to say there were not problems. Like almost every bizarro book I read, this book had editing problems that were intrusive enough for me to notice. It’s a shame when an author writes a very good book and routine editing does not catch basic mistakes. This is an issue I continue to have with bizarro books as a whole and one I suspect will not go away anytime soon, yet I also suspect I will keep mentioning it until it stops annoying me. The most egregious issue with this book is that hyphens and em-dashes are used interchangeably. The interruption when I read hyphenated words and had to go back because I realized they were hyphenated and not words connected by an emdash was intrusive to the flow of the book. Perhaps this is a problem only in the e-book. Perhaps it was caught and I was reading an old copy. Who knows, but bear in mind this book did not escape the problem I often have with bizarro editing in other areas as well. On the other hand, this book does overcome one of the biggest complaints I personally receive about bizarro – the books are too short. While I don’t mind paying even for short books, I know many look at book purchases using a cost-benefit analysis and often find bizarro books too short for the price. That won’t be a problem with this Rauch collection.

This book is divided into three sections of stories and there are too many for me to discuss all of them, so I will stick to the ones I consider to be the best, though interestingly, I think the story from which this book takes its title is the weakest in the collection.

Laredo by Tony Rauch

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Laredo: Stories

Author: Tony Rauch

Type of Book: Fiction, bizarro, short story collection

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Rauch is a bizarro author, but even within that classification, he employs a writing style that is a bit left of center.  These stories are atypical enough that I consider them odd.

Availability: Published in 2008 by Eraserhead Press, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Day Two of Bizarro Week focuses on Tony Rauch’s Laredo. Before I begin, let me remind my readers that I am giving away a free copy of every book I will discuss this week. One lucky person will win a free copy of each of the five books and entering the drawing to win is as easy as leaving a comment. Read up on the contest rules here and comment wildly. Avidly, even.

I both enjoyed this collection and found it maddening. I like Rauch’s simple yet meandering approach to prose. His words at times are delightfully combined and the stories as a whole are far less insane than one often finds in bizarro fiction. But at times the stories, especially the first story in the collection, went on far too long for my tastes. And that is what is so maddening because even as I reread the stories I like the least, I could not find anything technically deficient with them.  In fact, I think the real maddening element was that I felt like these were stories I could have written myself and being unable to see them unfold as I wanted made me nervous.

So instead of force my tastes into a discussion wherein I end up panning a good story that simply was not my cup of tea or appearing as I would have wanted had I written it, I am going to discuss the stories that were, to my sensibilities, mostly excellent. This is a collection of stories that discusses longing, human frailty and occasionally gives the readers a happy ending when they least expect it. Little doses of magical realism, large doses of love-sick men, and stories that, had they been trimmed down a bit, would have been near perfect.