1 out of 4 stars
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Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 is a collection of short stories focusing on the themes of loss, morality, and complex relationships. They are accompanied by full-page and smaller illustrations to convey each story.
I am rating Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016 1 out of 4 stars. Although some of the short stories were entertaining and well written, I did not agree with most of the sentiments in a lot of the stories. The themes were often confusing. Frankly, the characters attitudes to some situations were utterly abhorrent. People like this do exist, but it is hard to read several short stories in succession with the same types of characters. The stories about religion use religion as an excuse for certain behaviours. Although this may be a comment on the hypocrisy of religion, it mostly reads as people with a power complex. People who were seemingly good, but different were punished wholly in these stories. However, those committing adultery, for example, had nothing bad happen to them. Again, you can read this as a comment on the hypocrisy of judgement, but it also makes the author seem to have prejudice.
The stories that included race and ethnic minorities often used the N-word unnecessarily. It is uncomfortable to read the N-word. And with no context for its use (a time period etc.) it is not needed. There was one story with references to a time period the word was used and in context it made sense. However, it otherwise made me as a reader uncomfortable. Race is weirdly represented in these stories. Often people will have heavily stereotypical mannerisms (thick European accents, broken English) in their dialogue, just to slip into ‘normal’ speech. For instance, in one story most of the narration, which is third person, was in broken English with odd grammar. This would have been acceptable if in first person and the character spoke this way, but the main character of the story’s dialogue was completely fluent in English with no grammatical errors? It made the work look unfinished and poorly edited because the poor grammar in third person narration was completely unneeded. It leaves the reader thinking that the author has an odd view on different races and ethnicities. This was very confusing because some of the stories seemed anti-racism through its characters.
As a reader I found that some stories continued on for a paragraph or so unnecessarily, having could have been tied up earlier. Whereas other stories did not end satisfyingly. Perhaps short stories should end with the reader wondering how something will progress rather than being told a whole future for characters in one sentence. I found the stories with the most engaging characters that I felt sympathy for, their stories ended abruptly, providing nothing to imagine the future of those characters with.
I was disappointed with the lack of imagination in the characters. Having so many short stories and written over a span of 16 years, one would hope that the types of character one writes would develop. However, almost all of the men had the same traits and attitudes toward women. Often the male characters sexualise young girls, family etc. which seems completely unnecessary and wrong. Most if not all of the parents in every story where divorced or divorced through the events in the story. The women were written to be irrational and careless. All the characters are idealistic and seemingly have no priorities. This was disappointing because as the reader I felt as if I was reading the same kind of story over and over again.
There were far too many errors just in the practice of short story writing. Descriptions are often repeated throughout one story and also across multiple ones. For instance, the same description of tree limbs cracking is used in succession in one story. Also, “eyes burning” is used in the description a lot. It doesn’t provide variety for the reader, making it seem even more like reading the same stories over and over. Furthermore, there seems a lot of filler-detail in the stories. Background characters having quirky descriptions for no reason as they are not important to the story. In writing a short story you often cut out the unnecessary description to conserve space, this does not seem the case in many of these stories. There was also a lot of grammatical errors and problems with the tenses which were off-putting making it difficult to read.
However, I will say I enjoyed a lot of the description although unnecessary at times. The use of metaphors was really interesting and beautifully worded. For instance, “there was a firestorm in her blue eyes that were usually glacier cold”. I did enjoy the illustrations accompanying the stories and often went back to reflect on them upon reading the individual stories. There was a lot of artistic skill including linocut prints and comic book style art as well as sketches. I commend the author using a variety of settings and time periods (one assumes, it is not always stated). I will say the language is not always consistent with the intended time period (for those that state it). There is also a lot of interesting discussion surrounding death and morality. I found these thought-provoking to read. I think, on the whole, the themes that the author is writing about are controversial and so can be interpreted differently to how it is intended. I think more care should have been taken over this.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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