Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Everyone in This is Either Dying or Will Die or is Thinking of Death

Though the title may just about say it all, there's a little more to J.A. Tyler's 2008 chapbook than just the fact that everyone is dying (or will die, or is thinking about it). It's the way they're all dying that makes this collection of flash fiction interesting: violently in most cases, angrily in others, and almost always with a splash of helpless existential angst. The cover, then -- a gruesomely embellished image of Angela Lansbury from her days as the star of Murder She Wrote -- is certainly appropriate, for there's a sense of mystery in Tyler's writing. The issue, however, isn't so much whodunnit as was the case on the TV show, because that much is obvious: life dunnit. The big question is how the characters in Tyler's vignettes got to where they are. The last moments, the reflection on last moments, the foreshadowings of last moments all serve as snapshots of the lives they represent and, as such, underscore the fragile nature of humanity. We are flesh and blood, this collection reminds us -- fragile, corruptible, and ultimately searching for something we're not likely to find.

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