Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Review: Ballistics
Jake Moss
Alex Keegan’s ‘Ballistics’, a collection of stellar short stories, put together like a photo album, snapshots of the ordinary life and its changing beauty and disarranged intensity. Captured, Succinctly - Situations where ordinary people who are living relatively ordinary lives are faced with the extraordinary complexities of it all.

Keegan’s appeal lies in how he balances the emotional depth and engaging length of difficult situations- broken families, broken hearts, growing up, uncontrollable disasters, death and life- with humour, a dry philosophy, redemption and, ultimately the imperfect resolutions. He resuscitates the depth of these ‘every day’ lives while exposing the mucky mess of truth and the failures of being human which are habitually ignored.

We see in many of his stories such as ‘Ballistics’ and ‘An old man watching football’, situations in which a individuals’ past has conspired with their future to produce an outcome that can be sourced all the way back to childhood. I found myself more than once twisting around to face my estranged childhood and unravelling tangled memories. He provokes something real. ‘It’s as real as a tree’ he writes in ‘The smell of almond polish’ and this can be said about his stories. They are organic and pure- I can smell the almond polish as his characters make love upon it.

His past talent as a Crimi writer also infuses something special into the stories. The rueful sentimentalism in ‘Spectacles and Testicles’ is enriched by the suspense he is able to conjure. The themes of innocence, the old, the young and death are often placed together. ‘The Quarry’, is one of those in which such themes are played with, causing a dark curtain of thoughts to descend after you’ve finished reading. In others, ‘Postcards from balloon Land’, your emotions are made to do laps and climb mountains. A strong narrative pulse is inherent throughout. Written in a blunt, quirky and bold language these stories carry a strong pulse.

As an aspiring writer myself, a student of the pen, I say that he gives me something to look forward to and a target at which to aim. A purchase essential for the real amongst us.

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