Friday, June 15, 2012

On "Amelia Gray's Museum of the Weird" by Amelia Gray ***

I've greatly enjoyed Gray's stories on the Web, as evidenced by the number that I've featured here on the blog. They have a kind of zaniness that makes them incredibly fun to read. At their best, they also manage to comment in a disturbing way on our contemporary world. Stories like "Babies," wherein a woman wakes to find she's birthed a new baby each day, are funny and yet horrifying, a combination that first made me a big fan of Jeffrey Eugenides Virgin Suicides back in the day. So it was with great earnestness that I finally turned to a full collection of hers.

The collection of mostly very short stories reads very quickly. Many of these pieces have been featured online. And many of these pieces read like the tales one would find online. What I mean is that many aren't really tales. They're interesting forays into the absurd, playful things you'd find on sites like McSweeney's Internet Tendencies. And while such makes for fun reading, the collection as a whole for me became weighted a bit too much toward the weird. After a while, I wanted more things to add up.

The best stories in the collection seem to be those freighted toward the start of the collection. Or perhaps, the best stories are those I read when I hadn't become inured to the weirdness. "Babies" is a great lead-in. Another good one, "Unsolved Mystery," surprisingly wasn't published independently before the collection's publication. It involves a detective on the hunt for a serial killer, and the detective's relationship problems and his faith in God. Gray nails the closing on this one and manages to make all these spinning plates relate to one another and work off of one another to say something about spirituality and knowledge.

In the "entertaining but not really a story" category would be such pieces as "Trip Advisory" offering advice on visiting Reagon's boyhood home, and "Code of Operation," a set of rules for a Snake Farm run by an obviously deranged owner.

No comments: