>Caffeine-free Toothpaste

>LISTEN: twenty-nine short conversations:
A Pen & Palette Book Review

Corey Mesler who owns Burke’s Books in Memphis, (with his wife, Cheryl) sent me a copy of his first collection of short stories. It’s called LISTEN: twenty-nine short conversations. Corey is a poet, and his gift is apparent in this diverse collection of lyrical prose, erotic email exchanges, gritty conversations between x-lovers, and interactions that dip into forbidden realms between therapist and hypnotized client. He includes exchanges between the ghosts of musicians past and unorthodox interviews with living artists. Corey captures words fresh from the lips of everyday people and stirs them together with his own dark roux for a spicy hot literary gumbo.

Marly Youmans describes Listen in her blurb as “… the still point of a see-saw between up-light and down-dark….” Yeah. That’s exactly what I was thinking.

My personal favorite is “Adman.” Maybe because I always crack up when products like fruit and vegetables are advertised as being “fat free,” when they never had fat to start with. Mesler’s “Adman” is point on with his caffeine-free toothpaste, and it speaks volumes to the buyer’s perception of truth, and ultimately, to the Adman’s wife’s perception of him. Good stuff.

Also liked “Punk Band.” Made me think of the lyrics to a Brad Paisley (apologies to Corey) song: If you’re living in a world that you don’t understand, find a few good buddies, start a band. I’m sure much of Corey’s genius is lost on my parochial mind—it’s such a stretch for me to travel with him into the darkness of “The Hen Man,” and I felt guilty relishing the artsy gore of “His Last Work.” But I know good writing when I read it, and this is good. It’s like Jill McCorkle said in “Cuss Time,” when an elderly woman approached her after one of her readings and fussed at her for using bad words: “I wanted to say fuck you, and even knowing it would have been completely out of character for me to do so, I like knowing that I could have.” My point is, I won’t ever write like Corey, and I might even blush a little bit while reading his work, but when no one is looking, I might say, “Wow.”

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