Re­port from a Place of Burn­ing

Ge­orge Looney

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction -

Leapfrog Press (SEPTEM­BER) Soft­cover $16.95 (180pp), 978-1-948585-00-2

In­sider ob­ser­va­tions be­come the way to res­ur­rect a doomed com­mu­nity in Re­port from a Place of Burn­ing. The ac­counts of a widow, adul­terer, mother, de­tec­tive, prophet, and wid­ower merge into a com­pre­hen­sive re­port of the town, where crib death be­comes syn­ony­mous with mur­der by spon­ta­neous com­bus­tion.

Bound­aries be­tween re­li­gion and sci­ence, fan­tasy and re­al­ity, and the de­struc­tive ver­sus re­gen­er­a­tive qual­i­ties of bro­ken glass and fire dis­solve to make this “place of burn­ing” bet­ter un­der­stood through its mysteries than through solv­ing them.

Anec­dotes abound, and they prove ide­ally suited to flesh­ing out the town’s char­ac­ters, re­la­tion­ships, and cir­cum­stances. One fea­tures fic­tional peo­ple des­tined to live in newly con­structed houses; it re­veals as much about the town’s history and in­hab­i­tants as it does about the cou­ple who fab­ri­cate the tale to en­ter­tain each other. Sto­ries about a leg­endary de­tec­tive’s fried egg sand­wich and words of wis­dom re­veal less about the liv­ing leg­end than they do about his ob­server/part­ner and the crimes that they in­ves­ti­gate in tan­dem.

Each en­try is ob­jec­tive, in­sight­ful, can­did, and in­ti­mate enough to be en­trusted to a per­sonal di­ary; each could eas­ily stand alone. But they don’t. Themes, con­cepts, in­di­vid­u­als, and events from one ac­count start to ap­pear in oth­ers with greater and greater fre­quency, un­til one story line seam­lessly con­tin­ues into, and is em­bel­lished by, the next.

Skill­ful use of light­ing and de­tails al­lows imag­ined scenes to eas­ily elude doubt while launch­ing those based in fact into the realm of fan­tasies. Con­se­quently: the flesh of a mother’s arms burns from nurs­ing her smol­der­ing ghost baby; the hospi­tal treat­ing her burns is so bright that the only thing that could be real in such light is sor­row.

Hu­mor and tragedy stroll hand in hand through Ge­orge Looney’s novel, where the liv­ing talk to the dead and the dead not only talk back but are no less trans­formed by their ex­pe­ri­ences of death than they were by their ex­pe­ri­ences of life. LINDA THORLAKSON

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