Sunday, 31 July 2011

Reviews Of Books I Have Read

Where the Butcher Lays Down His Cleaver To Weep By The Stream of Doubtful Deli Meats
Short Stories by Flinchey Guntsmeyer

Few writers have the luxury of being able to devote themselves full-time to their art, but Flinchey Guntsmeyer is one of that rare breed after his father, Rusty, left Flinchey his meat processing empire. Guntsmeyer's is known far and wide for both their delicious selection of deli meats and their fine cuts of beef, lamb, pork and poultry. As their catchy song goes, Guntsmeyer's, Guntsmeyer's, we're you're supplier, fulfilling all your meat desires, whatever you require, just enquire, we'll take you higher with our meat, meat, meat.
The author busy at work on his next book. Known for his keen eye for bringing out the smallest details to understand his characters' interior lives has led to Mr. Guntsmeyer being described as the Chekhov of Barrel Falls, New Rotchire.
The same dedication the company shows to their customers is equally evident in the exquisite short stories of Flinchey Guntsmeyer. Few would believe that the work ethic of a vast meat processing empire could trickle down into the creative field, but Flinchey puts that question to rest, or to bed or a least stretched out in a sleeping bag in a one-man tent with this first collection of stories, fast on the heels of his last novel, The Butcher, The Baker, The Chopped-Up Candlestick Maker, a thriller that moves at uber-speed on the autobahn of heart-stopping plot twists, international intrigue and double-dealings that would make Tom Clancy cry like a baby in a nursery and wet his Tilley's as he watches his career sink like a torpedoed submarine in the Baltic Sea while Dan Brown peers helplessly through the periscope, wishing he were in one of Leonardo da Vinci's seemingly implausible but really quite functional submersible inventions rather than a rusting hunk of tin whose rivets pop like pus-filled blackheads once the water pressure hits them, and they both meet their salty death at the hands of Guntsmeyer's rollicking yarn, but enough about that because we're here to discuss Flinchey Guntsmeyer's more literary endeavours with stories so poignant you'll forget all about that penis-enlarger that you wasted your money on one sultry night in June when the fireflies illuminated the front lawn like tiny tiki torches at a luau where the roast suckling pig was plentiful and the chicken po-po balls glowed like one of the sixty-three moons of Jupiter, which brings us full circle back to the butcher and the stream of doubtful deli meats where he lays down his cleaver to weep, the lead story in this fine collection.  
The great Rusty Guntsmeyer handling meat with the same delicacy that his son would one day handle words. They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, or in this case, the pastrami from the brisket of beef, or the ham from the hock or the chicken feet from the soup tureen.
In this piece, the narrator, Lundsman Henchgill, is the butcher serving the quaint village of Stripsonbing, a wind-torn hamlet on the wild shores of the north Pacific. Flinchey describes the place as thus; "The wind tore at the roofs of the fishing shanties, flinging crumbling shingles hither and thither, and strumming the zither strings of the townspeople's hearts and their faces were lashed with so much salt water that it weathered their features, but in a good way like a smoker with emphysema who has one of those deep, throaty, mucous-warbling laughs that bids everyone to join in in their merriment and phlegm-drenched joviality. If that's not evocative and even a little provocative then I'll eat my undershorts. Actually, I'm all out of undershorts so I'll eat my neighbour's instead. Or if he's out of undershorts, which I suspect, then I'll eat my landlady's, Mrs. Grabowski's undershorts, which are really big. I've seen them hanging on the line outside and if anyone is promising to eat undershorts upon losing a bet, then these are the undershorts that'll give you a run for your money. Or your teeth. Or your digestive tract. Anyway, someone will be forced to pay up and someone will be eating undershorts until the cows come home.
Symptoms of toxic levels from eating giant undershorts. This man will never see the cows come home tonight or, perhaps, any other night.
So, in this craggy and barren place that still retains it quaintness even as almost daily people are dashed against the rocks by huge waves, their bodies smashed to smithereens, Lundsman Henchgill laments his lot in life, being without a wife or child or even a pet that can tolerate the meat smells that come off of him like the north wind. You would think at least a pet would enjoy the meat smells and follow Lundsman about, but because of his affinity for carrying his beloved cleaver around with him like one would carry a wallet or pocket-watch or locket with a loved one's strand of hair or toenail clipping or other such keepsake, stray dogs, cats and even the odd anteater (they were brought in by the town barber to solve the town's ant problem but then they began to breed and overrun the nearby marshes), run from his approach. The butcher's loneliness is overwhelming and one day Lundsman Henchgill closes up his shop and wanders off, past the high hills that lie behind the town square and into the inland forests beyond. No townspeople had ever strayed that far, so in love with their windswept coastline were they and the dangerous ebbs and swells and eddies that soothed their souls like jellyfish stinging them senseless, "but in that senselessness a state of euphoria that only the nubile tentacles and undulating air sacs of poisonous jellyfish can bring," as Guntsmeyer so aptly writes.     
It is here, in the deep glades the forest hides, "embraced by foliage that dapples the light like a thousand scimitars beating on the bald pate of a drunken Turk," as Guntsmeyer describes it, that Lundsman Henchgill discovers a burbling stream, so tranquil it immediately causes him to lie down and go to sleep, clutching his cleaver to his breast. Then he has a dream, so vivid it's almost like a 3-D movie but without the glasses, chocolate covered peanuts and sticky seats and when he awakes he sees that the stream is flowing with delicious deli meats. He bends down at the water's edge and plucks a piece of eye of round pastrami floating by, takes a deep breath, tastes, makes a face and then lays down his cleaver and weeps. Then, a mysterious woman dressed in gauzy white appears from behind a tree stump, picks up the cleaver and chops the butcher to bits. Finally, Lundsman Henchgill is set free. The deli meats may be doubtful but I have no doubts about this story. It is simply a work of genius. The next story in the collection, The Reluctant Turnstile, is told from a turnstile's point of view, the narrator being a turnstile and fully-operating sanitizing station in a meat processing plant and again Mr. Guntsmeyer calls upon his considerable knowledge in this area to really flesh out the details of the story and add veracity to the turnstile's voice.
The opening is riveting. Just sink your brain teeth into this sentence. "I have felt the best bellies of my generation pushing against me; stolid, flaccid, pallid, solid, jellied and squalid, and from each I have gleaned a lifetime's worth of envy, greed, heroism (yes, even in meat processing there are those who put themselves second in the pursuit of the greater good of humanity), humiliation and even incessant and off-key humming and I may not be able to turn back time but I can turn back anyone I deem unworthy to pass through the metal portal of my turnstile gate, holding them back with my mighty metal arm as if to say, hey, if you want to tread like a god walk softly and stop carrying so much pocket change because the jingling is driving me crazy and don't forget to wash your hands or I will smote you or at least halt you until security is called and they force you to turn in your hairnet and white smock." I had to take a deep breath after that sentence and pull up my socks, both metaphorically and literally because they have lost much of their elasticity in the wash. Even Hemingway, in his best days, before he became the foreman in that Havana pinata factory, couldn't turn out such a sentence as this.
For those of you who intend to read this book and need help pulling up your socks, may I recommend my colleague, Dr. Carswill's, sock-pulling device, available at reputable hosiery emporiums across North America and parts of Madagascar.
Another story, Porgoville, Anytown, USA, is an ode to the author's love of fishing with luncheon meat as bait. It's a beautiful coming-of-age story in which the young Orion Lamprey, a fugitive from Boy Scout camp, strikes out on his own with only a fishing pole, a can of SPAM and his trusty finger-puppet, Dung-Dung. Fishing by the banks of the beautiful Clackawaluna River, Orion catches himself a huge catfish who promises him great riches if the boy promises not to gut and eat him. Orion ignores the catfish's pleas, slits open its belly and finds a golden key. Unfortunately, Orion Lamprey has killed the talking catfish and so the fish can never tell him where the key fits and the rest of the story involves Orion's search for the box or chest or door or lock or car or gym locker that the key fits. Is he successful in his journey? And what does it all mean? Maybe it means it's time to meet your meat team.
From those that nurture to those that butcher to those that procure for resale, these are the men and women who sustain you so you can continue enjoying great works of literature and Flinchey Guntsmeyer will never let you forget it. They say the pen is mightier than the sword or in this case, the meat cleaver, but don't let Rusty Guntsmeyer hear you say that because he'd chop you to pieces in seconds and have you laid out in a display case soon after with little visual touches like say, a sprig of parsley or leaves of wintergreen to make the meat (you!) more alluring because the artistry that Flinchey demonstrates so wonderfully had to begin somewhere and it is evident that he follows in his father's blood-soaked footsteps, one with words, the other with meat but in the end isn't it all the same thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment