A THOU­SAND DIS­TANT RA­DIOS

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Debut Fiction - JEFF FLEIS­CHER

Woody Skin­ner, Ate­lier26 Books (NOVEM­BER), Soft­cover $16 (200pp), 978-0-9893023-9-5 The ma­te­rial may be dark, but Skin­ner’s dead­pan de­liv­ery keeps it funny. In his short story col­lec­tion, A Thou­sand Dis­tant Ra­dios, Woody Skin­ner show­cases a deft sense of hu­mor, a dis­tinc­tive voice, and clever, imag­i­na­tive premises.

“The Knife Sales­man” is a su­perb piece of ab­surd com­edy. The nar­ra­tor be­gins the story talk­ing about a seem­ingly mun­dane life lead­ing train­ing work­shops for stu­dents look­ing for side jobs sell­ing knives. As the story es­ca­lates, he be­comes a knife-wield­ing celebrity, a cross be­tween a rock star and mo­ti­va­tional speaker who draws huge crowds, in­spires stab­bings by his fans, and be­gins ply­ing his knife skills in overly elab­o­rate dis­plays of blood sport. The ma­te­rial may be dark, but Skin­ner’s dead­pan de­liv­ery keeps it funny.

For its comedic premise, “At­lantic Blue” is sur­pris­ing in its earned emo­tions. A cou­ple pre­pares for the birth of their first child; their doc­tor tells them, “Your baby is a fish.” Skin­ner keeps the re­al­ism in his magic re­al­ism: the char­ac­ters do their best to prep for an aquatic child, try­ing to find the best paint color and best bed­room equip­ment. Play­ing the fa­mil­iar beats of pend­ing par­ent­hood against a seem­ingly silly cir­cum­stance, Skin­ner cre­ates some­thing weird and won­der­ful.

“Pre­ferred Sig­nals, 1985” flashes back to the early days of satel­lite tele­vi­sion “in a place where ca­ble didn’t ex­ist,” with the life of the nar­ra­tor’s fa­ther told through the dif­fer­ent chan­nels he watched and their con­tents. “Weight” is a short piece about a girl’s first sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ence on her six­teenth birth­day, a sec­ond-per­son telling of ex­pec­ta­tion and un­der­whelm­ing re­sult.

“The Wa­ver­ing Grass” is told from the per­spec­tive of a cow, and is about her en­counter with a bull and the re­sult­ing preg­nancy. The cow’s mem­o­ries of the farmer im­print in her mind and drive un­ex­pected ac­tion against him; they set the story apart.

For its va­ri­ety of sto­ries and clever, ac­ces­si­ble prose, A Thou­sand Dis­tant Ra­dios truly stands out.

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