Thursday, January 14, 2010

review: When The Cats Razzed The Chickens & Other Stories by Mel Bosworth

Check back tomorrow for the 5 best things Mel has read recently...

When The Cats Razzed The Chickens & other stories
by Mel Bosworth
Folded Word, 2009
(Nice handmade & e-versions available!)

I've never met Mel Bosworth, only exchanged some emails, but if I were to see him, I think I would stalk him for awhile, watch from afar, as he shovels snow or goes to the bar or the coffeeshop or shops at Costco. I would watch him, maybe not like a hawk, but very closely still, just to find out how absurd he really is, before I actually introduced myself.

Because here's the question for Mel--does he believe these stories? Does he tell friends these stories in all seriousness, with no smiles or grins? How sarcastic is Mel Bosworth really, if he's sarcastic at all? I really don't know. Sometimes I felt Mel was telling jokes, sometimes I thought he was revealing spiritual places, other times---both.

See, take this story: "Leave Me as I Lessen." The first line is--"I"m stuck to the beach, melting." Okay, funny haha. But the story really is about someone melting, fading away, not sinking, on the beach and a family takes pictures around the person as an attraction, then as a horror show, and by the end the father kneels in wonder. In between there are lines like--"Dad instructs the children not to bother me. He can see I'm tired." That's damn funny. Maybe not funny here, but it's funny in the story, I swear. The guy is melting, and that's all the Dad can say?

On the funny side is "The Humble Origins of the Milky Way (Boys)," about two guys performing outrageous stunts outside a Chinese restaurant. This is good stuff right here: "I could feel the pressure building in the behemoth beneath me, a churning machine of flab, muscle and cheap wine, and when he loosed me to the stars, the silence cracked my mind like a whip, and I spun, and twirled, and somersaulted." Good stuff. The kicker, the closer, the whatever-that-MFA-word-is, comes like a sly surprise, not fully unexpected, yet surprising all the same--like when you look in a bag of M&Ms and you think they're all gone, but there's still one left. Mel works like that. Mel is able to do most of his shenanigans in 200 word bursts or something, sometimes shorter, giving full legitimacy to the term 'flash fiction' if any one is concerned about those things.

Mel has this thing with fantastical fables, somewhat mythical, and maybe they just don't work for me--but I really didn't "get" them I guess. There's Hambone Sizzlewitt pushing a boulder up a hill, there's Glitterbug and Hucklebuck in a hayfield, that funny beard story (okay, I liked that one). I'm most interested in when Mel Bosworth illuminates something so odd, but probably, maybe, partially, true--because he bridges the absurd and reality so well. Personal preference, I guess.

See, this visceral response from me at the words of Mel Bosworth is completely illuminating--really only to myself, because I've learned more about myself by reading Mel Bosworth--these stories make me think of things I've never thought of before.

When the Cats is just a chapbook, so I hope he unleashes something longer and fiercer one day, but for now, I'm totally pleased with rereading this.


  1. We all hope for more from Mel. If he has a heart attack soon, and someone reading this is near him during the ordeal, please save him. Or at least save his brain and his fingers.

  2. the excerpts you picked out have me intrigued


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