OH DON’T ASK WHY
Reviews & Comments
Dennis Must’s splendid new collection Oh, Don't Ask Why is a worthy successor to Banjo Grease, his first book of stories, and it advances elements from that work: diminution of vitality, dissolution of family, fierce filial loyalties, a mingling of sexual ardor, grief, loss, and spiritual and moral anxiety and ambiguity. These elements are not merely threads in the collection's tapestry but are its very gut and sinew. The glass through which Must's character perceive life is definitely noir, and they are daunted by a variety of forces, among them multiple personalities and suicidal longings (hope and despair can exist in the same sentence in a Must story), and many have an aesthetic subtext. Often it seems the sacred can only be defined by and in the presence of the profanethink of Kafka, Flannery O'Connor, Nathaniel West, Hawthorne. This is a darkly funny book that provokes the sort of laughter that dies in your throat as you realize that, as Brecht put it, “He who laughs has not yet been told the terrible news.” In Oh, Don't Ask Why we can again admire Must's trademark swift exposition and startling visual coups, and experience his affinity for the perfect detail. This collection will haunt the reader for a long, long time; as a Fitzgerald notebook entry goes, “Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I'll tell you a story.”Geoffrey Clark , author of WEDDING IN OCTOBER and JACKDOG SUMMER, plus short story collections.
I cannot come up with any recent parallels to Dennis Must’s free improvisation with the language, using profanity as a cutting edge to lay bare the longings of the soul, except for Robert Johnson s ghostly lyrics, while the improvisational verve recalls blasts of noise from Ornette Coleman or Charles Mingus…Reading his stories gives me the recurring image of the writer cruising fast late at night on some godforsaken highway, flipping the radio dial. The signal he s looking for is the one beamed out of his childhood hometown.
• Read the Salem Gazette article about Dennis and Oh Don’t Ask Why
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