Sunday, October 17, 2010

Review: Sarah Court, by Craig Davidson

Published: September 2010

Finally got around to it: October 2010

“Truth is, the humans whose company I enjoy most are those most like animals. I spent time in a brain injury ward. One boy suffered massive cerebral hemorrhages due to his mother’s narrow birth chute. The most beautiful, open smile. He experienced more moments of joy in one day than I’ll claim to in a lifetime. Most of us would be better off having our heads held under water a couple minutes. Ever see an unhappy dog, Nicholas?”

Life for the denizens of Sarah Court is a bit less than usual. Apart from the norm that most would be comfortable showing to the world, whether the darkness and dysfunction are there or not. But it’s not just darkness that comes through the mosaic of interwoven tales that make up Sarah Court. Each story, be it of a father expecting to dredge his daredevil son’s body out from the base of Niagara Falls or of a daughter whose life is nearly crushed out of her when her wrist breaks and a barbell drops onto her throat, has a tangibility to it that is altogether uncommon in most borderline horror/surrealist lit. That tangibility belongs entirely to the characters. They don’t feel real; they practically are real. Author Craig Davidson has pulled a series of characters that at first glance feel like a potluck of awkward and unconventional personas, but in each of them he’s managed to tap a vein that a lot of authors would miss—that little bit of blood in the water, circling them at all times, that gives weight to their pasts and their actions and musings within the stories themselves.

In short: they’re fuck ups, but fuck ups in a totally relatable way, despite being entirely un-relatable in concept.

The dialogue matches the prose—sparse and to the point. There’s little wasted space in the book’s 300+ pages. Only a couple of years old, CZP’s output is greatly increasing in quality. Their books have always had an edge and a style to them that few other publishers would even attempt, and the slightly smaller digest size of Sarah Court immediately makes it stand out as something that feels tight and substantial.

I struggled with the first story in the collection, but as I progressed through the stories (and the almost Pulp Fiction-esque manner of dissection and repurposing timelines into a new viewpoint became clearer with each newly introduced thread of familiarity), the book took on a life of its own.

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