Friday, November 30, 2012

The Uninnocent by Bradford Morrow

Special thanks to Guy of His Futile Preoccupations for hosting the giveaway from which I won this book.

The Uninnocent by Bradford Morrow is a collection of short stories that share many common threads. The tales are generally first person accounts of quirky outsider types, some of whom commit questionable and sometimes reprehensible acts including murder.

To a remarkable degree, Morrow has gotten really deep into his characters’ heads. The majority of these fictional people have suffered loss or displacement in their early years that sends them a little off kilter. Though far from perfect, these characters are often complex and sympathetic.

In “The Hoarder” the main character hides in a small building that is part of a miniature golf course as he covertly observes couples playing the game.

“The physical urgency I felt, spying on these lovers,  I sated freely behind the thin walls of my  hiding place. Meanwhile, I learned how lovers speak, what kind of extravagant lies they tell each other, the promises they make, and all I could feel was gratitude that my brand of intimacy didn’t involve saying anything to anybody. “

False perception of reality is key theme of most of the stories. Many of the characters are unreliable narrators. Some of these storytellers lead the reader to believe that they are acting in good faith or self – defense; before the tale’s end, however, holes pop up in their narratives.

In “The Enigma of Grover’s Mill,” the adolescent narrator comes to believe that his mother’s live in boyfriend is a three-legged Martian. Of course, this casts doubt upon the other aspects of reality that have been reported.

In “Amazing Grace,” our main character is blinded in an accident. After a period of depression, he picks himself up and, by using his misfortune as an example, he becomes an enormously successful spiritual and motivational speaker. After ten years, he spontaneously regains his sight. Keeping his newly regained vision a secret from his family and associates, he is shocked when he realizes what is really going on around him.

Some of the stories end in an imperfect redemption, usually with the flawed character finding a fellow outsider as a soul mate. All is never completely right and balanced because the serious defect is shown to still be lurking in the background. In “The Road to Nadeja,” the main character exhibits a lifelong habit of stealing things from friends and family. He uses the thefts in a bizarre way to gain further intimacy with these people. Later in life, isolated and alone, he makes a symbolic break from his habit and seems ready to begin over again. He meets a woman, but it is implied that he will steal something from her in order to cement their relationship.

Though often dark, this is a terrific collection of stories. Morrow’s writing is aesthetically pleasing, meaningful but very accessible. The character development is rich. Not always a journey into the blackest depths of the human heart, this is more a voyage into the murky grey. I highly recommend this for anyone who likes slightly off - beat stories with odd - ball characters.


Maria Behar said...

Hey, Brian!

I have never heard of this writer before, and, to be honest, don't know that I would like him, from what you've written here. Although I do enjoy reading about off-beat characters, these really seem to be on the extreme margins of society.

Still, I will investigate further. Perhaps I'm being too hasty in my judgment,

Thanks for bringing this writer to my attention (as well as to the attention of all your other readers)!! : )

Brian Joseph said...

Hey Maria - Agreed that some of the characters portrayed here are not nice or evan moral people. This really is character study in certain types of deviance.

Tom Cunliffe said...

This sounds like an original collection of stories - I like the idea of Amazing Grace in particular. Perhaps a book which it would be nice to be given but not one you would spend money on? Nice review anyway

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Tom - One thing about the story Amazing Grace is that it is one of the few that in my opinion has a main character that is not morally problematic.

For people who really like this kind of short story I would actually highly recommend this one.

Guy Savage said...

Hello Brian: Glad you enjoyed the book. I think short stories are a good way to 'meet' a new author.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Guy - thanks again. I really like Morrow. He is both entertaining as well as literary.

Violet said...

I like different and quirky so I'll keep an eye out for this book. I like reading collections of short stories on a similar theme. I think it must be quite hard to write stories with a connecting thread running through them all.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Violet - Indeed one would think that a writer might get burnt out trying to continue a theme over many stories. Though I how this collection was put together I would think that some writers would tend to write a certain type of story over the years. After some time they might realize that they had a bunch of tales with a similar thread and decide to consolidate them into a single book.

Caroline said...

This sounds like a book I would like. I found the summary of Amazing Grace particularly interesting. I sw something on TV not long ago in which a charcater's son gets lost and he becomes an inspirational speaker for bereaved parents. And the the son returns.
"Murky grey" I like that.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Caroline - Amazing Grace is a great tale. It is so very ironic in many ways. It may also be the only one in the book with a satisfying ending.

Ryan said...

I love murky grey. Sounds like my sort of collection.

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Ryan - One thing that makes these murky grey stories appealing to me is that they often reflect real life situations and people.

Lucy said...

This sounds really interesting, particularly in relation to mental health and character. Thank you for the post!

Brian Joseph said...

Hi Lucy - This was definitely an interesting character study. Indeed many of the characters exhibited some form mental illness. To Morrow'a credit, at least some of the characters who possessed these traits were not immoral or harmful to others. If all had behaved in that way, I would have taken exception to Morrow's portrayal of these issues.