He Runs the Moon

A review by T. F. Rhoden of Wendy Brandmark’s He Runs the Moon: Tales from the Cities

Sometimes the setting of stories, the barrios and backstreets and weighty avenues of childhood remembrances, prove to be as powerful to the narrative as the protagonists themselves. He Runs The Moon: Tales From The Cities by Wendy Brandmark vibrates with an urban milieu that can be both inviting and at times meaningfully oppressive. The tales here, which flitter from Denver, Colorado, to the Bronx, New York, to Cambridge, Massachusetts, are compiled together in a highly recommended collection of short stories.

All characters sharpen their speech, experiences, and epiphanies against this metropolitan whetstone.

Witnessing how the city-body becomes an agent in its own right is pleasantly hypnotizing. In the first part of seven stories set in Denver, ‘My Red Mustang’ captures this sentiment of city-as-agent well, as the female protagonist frets over what to do with an attractive-yet-unwanted automobile beyond its time, whilst street upon street of Denver comes alive to keep her vehicle in motion for just one more traffic light. This is more than just atmospheric indulgence. These kernels of urban truth dazzle in their own way as much as they hold the logic of the plot together. ‘Irony’, another story from this initial set, as well as having one of the more humourous plotlines, also works with the city of Denver as the main character struggles with some of the sodden truths of sexual iniquity.

Many of the stories in this collection were… [click here to continue to read full text]


*Originally published in Sabatoge Reviews by T. F. Rhoden; image credit for this re-post goes to Robert Cash via Wikipedia. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 


Review of Texaners by Jessica Gregory


Reviewed by Jessica Gregory at Sabatoge Reviews for T. F. Rhoden’s Texaners: Eight Short Stories.

‘…those perfectly imperfect souls of expansive, yet common diversity.’

What comes to mind when thinking of Texas? What stands out from the jumble of imagery that us non-Texans have subconsciously absorbed from various transmitters? Some montage of the following, I would say: the lonely ranches in the desert with their clanking windmills; the Rio Grande; cowboys silhouetted by the red setting sun; Country and Western music; the Dallas theme-tune; gun-toting, shooting, Second Amendment espousing Republicans; George W Bush; oil fields; all wrapped up in the sweltering Texan heat. And in light of this, this reviewer can readily understand Rhoden’s compulsion to attempt to debunk these stereotypes. As Rhoden himself says:

These stories are about new Texans—new Texaners. These children of the new Texas have no idea, no connection aside from locale, of that Texas of yesteryear.

Instead of cowboys Rhoden is exploring suburban, city, Texan life, particularly from the perspective of those that don’t find themselves apart of the Texan stereotype – the students, the immigrants, the multiracial, the liberal, the artists, among others. Rhoden has cited James Joyce’s Dubliners as a source of inspiration for this collection, and so he has set the bar high when attempting to emulate Joyce’s exploration of place-based identity.

Texaners consists of eight short stories. From the outset we are cast into a world far… [click here to continue to read full text]


*Review originally published in Sabatoge Reviews by Jessica Gregory; image credit for this re-post via City-Data. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence. 


The Labor of Longing

A review by T. F. Rhoden of Noël Valis’s The Labor of Longing: A Novella.

Those thoughts of ours, the ones that, if they do not haunt us, do whisper to us in a way which causes one to pause and reconsider some moment, some decision, some action of one’s life—those pangs of shiftless consciousness carry both the theme, and many ways, the plot of Noël Valis’s story, entitled The Labor of Longing: A Novella. The story crafted here, one set in the 1880s-90s, alternating between the barren pinelands of rural New Jersey and the city of Philadelphia, is one that is vivid and smartly written.

The language of Valis is pleasing. Many a passage or turn of phrase will make the reader wish to stop and reread what she has just read; though this is not done in an annoying way, as if it somehow breaks up the narrative, but in manner which is thought-provoking and, as a literary device, simply useful because the reader is impelled to empathize and re-empathize with a particular character.

Our inner librarian might be tempted to catalogue this story as magical realism. But this reviewer wishes to resist the urge to do so. Those elements that are magical for the characters of the story are probably better understood as psychological or, perhaps, pathological, but not preternatural. The title of the story is a very good one in this sense. For the act longing is nothing that is, in and of itself, outside the realm of a humanistic or social scientific understanding of the human condition.

A reluctance to emphasize the otherworldly elements of the story may be a bold interpretation to hold on the way that Valis composes the character of, say, Abby, since the young Abby’s true voice is only heard after she is dead. But it is a voice that is confident and controlled only as much as the voice is ascertained via the thoughts of another main character of the story in the person of Jonah.

In this respect of voice, Valis shines as a writer… [click here to continue to read full text]


*Originally published in Sabatoge Reviews by T. F. Rhoden; image credit for this re-post via New Jersey Public Radio. Unless otherwise stated, all posts on this website are under Creative Commons licence.