This Jealous Earth

Scott Dominic Carpenter. MG Press (Ingram, dist.), $15 trade paper (206p) ISBN 978-0-9882013-0-9
The 16 tales that form Carpenter’s agreeable debut collection thread together the familiar and the bizarre, and while not every story hits its intended mark, the volume offers enough surprise to remain engaging throughout. The coming-of-age “Donny Donny,” full of petty theft, x-ray specs, and dangerous neighbors, is charmingly nostalgic, while the meta-fictional correspondence between a man and a utility company’s customer service representative, in “Sincerely Yours,” adds humor and absurdity. Overall, Carpenter achieves the greatest success in two stories concerning animals. “The Tender Knife” finds a man facing sadness and terror while culling his koi pond. And in “Field Notes,” a vacationing boy collects scorpions as his parents’ marriage crumbles. Carpenter sprinkles the collection with several flash fiction compositions, and these concise bursts of prose, particularly “The Phrasebook” and “Future Perfect,” spark interest. Still, some longer narratives disappoint. The title story collapses under a saccharine finale, and the semi-ghost yarn “The Spirit of the Dog,” about a missing canine and a series of disappearances at a mining site, overextends its welcome. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/26/2012
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