3 out of 4 stars
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The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Cole 2000-2016, consists of 33 short stories, two graphic novels, and one novella. An award-winner and a finalist of numerous literary contests, including the prestigious William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, William H. Cole is a former ophthalmologist, MD and MS. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Cole’s prose is elaborately crafted. The author employs visceral and pictorial syntax that allows to visualize the described scenes with all their colors and shades. Every story flows with its own rhythm, flow, and pace. As you sink into reading, the shadows of the mighty wordsmiths of the past, such as Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, Albert Camus, among many others, keep rising from the subtle realm of literary allusions. Opulent illustrations, preceding the story, create visual portals for entering William H. Cole’s multiverse with various moods, realities, and dysfunctional relationships.
The author mainly depicts the characters who are trapped in their petty egos, but have a potential for releasing their conditioned identities. The author features all kind of bizarre situations and deeply existential moments in the lives of his protagonists. In each story, the main character achieves some sort of catharsis to redeem the past. And, more importantly, these characters reach the point when they are ready to break free from their staunch archetypes that kept them shackled in their inner prisons.
Within a short story frame and on a relatively small stage, William H. Cole manages to express much more than the concrete plot revolves around. For instance, in his story, Speaking of the Dead, the author portrays a funeral scene of Grace and her daughter, Candy. Both have died in a car accident. Giving a eulogy at the funeral becomes a real challenge for the protagonists. Candy happened to be a shallow and selfish person who never made any real friends. Grace, on the other hand, abandoned her husband, John, breaking his heart with her betrayal. For John, speaking of his wife Grace is truly painful. And yet, Henrietta, Candy’s college friend, focuses on positive features in Candy as she kindly honors her memory. She finds wise and poignant words to emphasize goodness in Candy. Henrietta’s speech deeply touches John’s heart, triggering deep release of all his suppressed emotions in regards to his wife. He literally revives the past and is able to put the broken pieces of his life together. Even though the story features just a single episode, readers get deep insight into an all-encompassing picture, extending beyond the story’s playground.
Sister Carrie is a novella that concludes the book. It portrays a deep drama in which a reader can discern the profound abyss between selfish and selfless love. As the story reveals, selfish love is an illusion. Even the most devoted sisterly love can become destructive when it’s blind and obsessive. Even so, Jessie, who is a narrow-minded and over protective sister, transforms as she accepts her sister Carrie’s choice in how and with whom to live her life. Psychological portraits of the characters are rendered with bold brush strokes, conveying vividly the atmosphere the characters are immersed in.
What I admire the most in William H. Cole’s prose is the space between the narrator and the protagonists. The author hovers high enough not to lose a perspective, but escapes temptation of becoming a some sort of an omniscient demiurge to dictate a reader his point of view. That’s the reason Cole’s prose always stays highly ethical without ever becoming moralistic. William H. Cole tends to show the world through the eyes and perceptions of his heroes. Readers easily slide into their mode of thinking to fully understand the alchemy of their transformation.
However, I find the two graphic novels, based on the stories, Homunculus and Reddog, superfluous and not up to the mark. To my opinion, they ruin the wholeness of the book in terms of aesthetic of illustrations, dialogues, and poetics in general. Also, I would not recommend the book to anyone under age 18 for some overly sexual content, scenes of cruelty, and some violence.
With that been said, I rate The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Cole 2000-2016 3 out of 4 stars.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
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