Lenox Avenue, #6, May/June 2005

Thursday, 07 July 2005 20:15 Ben Payne
"Hal and Dave Revisited" by Bruce Golden
"Yours Shall She Be" by Nir Yaniv (Translation by Lavie Tidhar)
"My Crimes" by Bruce Holland Rogers
"The Angel William Robert Travis" by T.L. Ryder
"Heart of the Scarab" by E. Sedia
"Till Ragnarok" by R.W. Day
"Dole as Ribbit (City Pier Part II)" by Paul Tremblay

To my mind this issue of Lenox Avenue achieves close to, if not the right balance of short and long pieces. Of course, my perception may be affected by the fact that the stories in this issue are, in the main, very strong.

Bruce Golden's story “Hal and Dave Revisited” is delivered in dialogue form. It tells the story of Dave, and his computer Hal, who appears to be stoned, and the difficulties that result. This is a quick story that makes its point and is on its way. Whether its humor appeals is best discovered by reading it; it’s too short to quote any of the gags here. I was mildly amused.

“Yours Shall She Be” by Nir Yaniv (translation by Lavie Tidhar), tells of a man called Mumi, caught in some kind of end-of-the-world disaster, and trapped with only the voice of a radio, possibly a delusion or possibly some kind of deity, for company. This is a translated story from Israel. It is another example of a tale mixing oddness with self-referentiality, similar in tone to one of the stories from last month. At this length, it’s worth a read. I found it interesting, but the humor of it didn’t really appeal to me.

“My Crimes” by Bruce Holland Rogers is, exactly as the title suggests, a litany of crimes, wherein the narrator confesses to stealing various items. The crimes range from small to large, from the banal to… well, I won’t give the story away. This was a nice little tale which had a nice idea in its tail…

“The Angel William Robert Travis” by T.L. Ryder is a short piece telling of a young country lad dying and the angel of death arriving to pick him up in an unexpected form. The story felt a little half-formed for me, although it was well written. It perhaps needed something else to make it really spark.

E. Sedia delivers “Heart of the Scarab,” a story about a man who takes care of dung beetles and who is given the power to travel across the universes that they create for him. It emerges, as the story develops, that their designs for him are not entirely innocent, and he is faced with a task he considers somewhat odious. I found his way out of the task a little contrived, but the story makes up for it with a strong ending. Another strong short piece.

“Till Ragnarok” is R. W. Day’s first story, but the prose is of excellent quality. The story deals with a group of sailors who attempt to start a settlement on a new continent. Told through the eyes of the young daughter of one of the men, it is a fantasy tale based in Norse mythology, in which the settlers come into conflict over the necessity to choose between old and new gods. I felt that the narrator was perhaps a little too detached from events, with the result that the importance of the conflict was hard to feel. However, despite this reservation, the author conjures her environment effectively, and I found this an enjoyable and evocative tale.

In discussing Paul Tremblay’s story from last issue, I mentioned that I’m not a big fan of crime stories. That remains true. At least, not a fan of stories about crime. In this issue Paul delivers the next installment to his City Pier series, “Dole as Ribbit,” in which a Priest who doubles as a psychic detective is faced with unraveling the mystery of an ex-criminal who is only capable of saying “dole as ribbit.” The central character is a fascinating mixture of cynicism and care: hard-bitten enough to trot out the clichés of hard-hearted pragmatism, but unable to stop himself from caring for the less well off. Tremblay paints a vivid dystopia, a city only marginally less corrupt and rotten than its dark underbelly. It would be inappropriate to detail the story’s finale, but I will say that I found it very moving. Crime stories might not do much for me when they’re about crime, but when, as is the case here, they’re used to probe the bitter depths of the human condition, they’re more than welcome. A strong story.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable issue that promises a positive road ahead for Lenox Avenue...