Thursday, January 6, 2011

All Points North by Shelby R. Lee III

Sometimes comical, always moving, and often starkly painful, the stories in this unique collection share one overriding similarity: an extraordinary ability to reveal the deep psychological complexities of the human experience.  In All Points North, author Shelby Lee targets the unseen mental landscape that informs our daily lives.  Here are 13 short stories that trace the roots of grief, anger, psychological torment and sorrow, and shine a much needed light on our seemingly unexplainable behavior and attitudes. -taken from the back of the book

Imagine you're in a waiting room.  It could be at the doctor's office, the dentist's office, or waiting for whatever it is you're waiting for.  You're sitting in one of those brittle and scratchy orange chairs that people used to covet in the 70's.  The floor is covered in some type of scraped up linoleum and the walls have dull, peeling wallpaper.  The only sound you hear is the ticking of a clock that's trapped upon the wall with a steel cage holding it tightly.  The only other discernable thing about this room is that there are 13 other people in this room as well, all sitting in the same scratchy chairs and looking about the room for some form of entertainment while waiting.  Some are old.  Some are young.  There are different genders and ethnicities.  Every person in this room has a different background and a different outlook.  You don't know any of these people, but what better way to spend your time than by getting to know them?  As you go around the room, each person has something to share.  Each has something pressing on their brain.  It may be a memory they treasure or despise.  It may be a story they heard that always makes them smile once the laughter has faded from it.  It could be ranting about that nosy old neighbor that just won't die.

This book is a compilation of wonderful short stories, each in the tone and mannerisms of a different person with a different outlook and a different background.  To me it was like sitting in the above-mentioned room and enjoying the time to listen to each person stand in the middle of the room and tell whatever tale they happened to have on their mind.  The range of stories is random and incredible.  Some stories I found rather similar, just as many of us have similar happenings in our lives.  Some made me smile because it wasn't really a story, but rather like listening to a good friend vent.

The best thing about short stories is that they're short.  You can read them in the bathroom or while waiting for the kids to be released from school.  It doesn't matter.  If you've got ten minutes, you can easily fit a story in.  The best part about this compilation of short stories is that after you've filled all those ten to twenty minute gaps in and read all of the short stories, you can take the time to compile them together in your brain.  Yes, these are all very different stories and in very different methods of storytelling, but at the end  you find yourself putting them together to make a beautiful collage of human nature. 

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