Smith, Neil. “Bang, Crunch”, Vintage, 2008.
New Short Stories from a New Author
Neil Smith, an author from Montreal has just published his first collection of short stories and like most collections it has both some really good writing and some that is not so good. Taken as a whole, I found it more than satisfying. The stories are set in a world that we know and they revolve around some strange object or situation or trait. Some of the stories sound vaguely familiar and others are totally new ideas that are outpourings of the author. Smith’s purpose seems to be an exploration of tragedy and farce, loneliness and tenderness, joy and sorrow. Smith seems to be a master craftsman with his use of the language which at times harbors on the technical but I do think that Smith will gain a place in literature with this collection. There are nine short stories all of which are about people who are ordinary but who find themselves in unexpected situations.
The title story, “Bang, Crunch” is a life in the day of a girl suffering from Fred Hoyle’s syndrome which ages her a year a day. She becomes a young genius until she reaches the age of the theoretical maxim and the process reverses and her age reverts. “The B9ers” looks at a survivor of a benign tumor who starts a support group to help others with the same problem. It looks at what it is to become “normal” after a close call and since the tumors of the members of the group were not malignant, they really do not support anyway. This is a well written and wonderfully funny tale.
“Isolettes” gives us a set of young parents coming to terms with the premature birth of their child. Looking at life in the beginning and its frailty, the mother still finds love for her child who lies wrapped in sensors and tubes. “Green Fluorescent Protein” is about a mother of a teenaged son who must come to terms with her alcoholism and her son Max who is having a hard time struggling with new situations which include his attraction for his best friend, and his mother’s try for a complete overhaul. Several other stories deal with situations that we can only hope we do not have to face.
All in all, the stories are an enjoyable read and author Smith has made a fine literary debut.