3 out of 4 stars
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A Bundle of Colorful Yarns by Louis Winslow is an eclectic collection of short stories loosely bound by, as the name implies, a few somewhat-related motifs. Though the stories vary in topic, many of them focus on outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and hunting. Several take place in Mexico and seem to all center on one particular region of the country, though each story has a unique set of characters with unique experiences.
Though a majority of the stories are simple and down-to-earth, or at most mildly ironic, a handful of them cross over into the paranormal. There are a few stories featuring ghosts, one featuring Bigfoot, one with a magical (or possessed?) painting, and a few that explore the paranormal aspect of hypnosis, mind-altering chemicals, and dream imagery. Some of the stories feature violence as well as descriptions of sexual acts so this book may not be the best choice for minors, though compared to some other books, these stories are still fairly tame.
I found the topics of the short stories to be quaint and amusing, and each one was short and easy to digest. Unfortunately, the brevity also lent itself to a scantiness of character and scene development, so some of the stories were missing an element of authenticity that would have been easier to relay with the addition of descriptors and character back-story. There were also quite a few spelling errors throughout. The stories themselves, though not boring, sometimes ended on an anticlimactic note (I found this to be true mostly in the first half of the collection). Sometimes the endings were a bit absurd, or left me scratching my head and wondering what the exact point was.
Finally, one of the unique things about this particular collection is that almost every story seems to be told in the same narrative voice. Though only a handful of them were specifically autobiographical (for example, several stories spaced throughout the collection mentioned the author’s son having died a few years ago), almost every story, including the fiction ones, focus on the experiences of a man - usually middle-aged or older. The dialogue was structured in a very similar style despite the characters in the stories being different, and the pacing and descriptions were written consistently as well. Though this did lend itself to more cohesion than a typical story collection, it seemed as if the book would have benefited by combining the numerous short stories into a smaller number of longer stories, with better character development and depth.
I struggled with rating this book 2 or 3 stars out of 4, but settled finally on 3 out of 4 stars. Despite the negatives mentioned above, by the end of the collection I felt as if I had gotten to know and admire the author. This is not always possible with a short story collection, as sometimes the topics can be so widely varied that it is difficult to discern the author’s true stance on anything. However, in this collection it was clear that the same person wrote every word, and the same experiences shaped every plotpoint. I recommend this book to readers who prefer short, sometimes-absurd, amusing reads, especially on topics pertaining to wilderness and outdoor activities.
A Bundle of Colorful Yarns
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