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Bang Crunch: Stories (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – January 8, 2008
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Montreal-based translator Smith debuts with nine stories, some of which hit the mark. In The B9ers, a man forms a support group for people who have had benign tumors removed, and that's where the action stops: a weak subplot involving fraud by a representative of an orphanage fails to give the story much bite. In Isolettes, a woman has a baby with the use of her friend's sperm, yet when catastrophe strikes after the birth, the general airlessness of the writing makes it hard to access her feelings. Similarly, the collection's longest story, Jaybird, profiles an ambitious actor led into an extremely revealing performance by his agent's secretary under false pretenses, but the denouement unfolds mutedly. Smith's poise finds its best home in Extremities, which follows a pair of gloves from one owner to another and finally through a murder, and in the title story, in which a woman ages forward too rapidly, and then backward just as rapidly. (Jan.)
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“Smith's writing has real spark and energy.... It's a fizzing debut.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Marvelously readable and inventive.... Smith's work is vehemently quirky but executed with the panache and facility of a polished veteran.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“An assured and imaginative short-story debut. Smith's ability to write from an absurdly wide ranges of character perspectives...is a disarming delight.”
—The Washington Post
“Flamboyant and impishly humorous. . . . Bang Crunch? That's the sound of a talented new writer making his mark.”
—The Toronto Star
“A remarkably fresh and self-assured debut. . . . Smith demonstrates the range of both his imagination and his empathy. . . . [He] is not just a natural, he's a kind of literary chameleon. He adopts the voices of men, women, and children with equal ease.”
—Quill & Quire
“Smith seems able to write about anything with flair and sympathy. . . . Bang Crunch is great fiction.”
—Toronto Globe and Mail
“Supremely crafted. . . . A polished and marvelously textured first book of short fiction.”
Top customer reviews
The opener, "Isolette," is a heartbreaker of loneliness about two unconventional friends who have a baby together. To a certain extent, it might be a mistake to place such an affecting story at the front of the collection, as it sets a very high standard that none of the other stories match. For example, immediately after it comes "Green Florescent Protein," which is a nicely crafted but ultimately conventional story about a teenage boy struggling to admit his attraction to his his best friend. Then comes, "The B9ers," which is perfectly emblematic of the collection as a whole -- also well written, the story is both funny and wan as it follows John Smith (the ultimate benign name) as he founds a support group for people with benign tumors.
The title story is the shortest of the lot, a ten-page ramble about a girl who suffers from an fictional disease which causes her aging process to accelerate, making her a genius at a young age. But once she reaches her theoretical maximum age, the disease reverses, causing her to revert in age -- in other words, it's a Jonathan Lethemy conceptual riff based on the Big Bang theory. "Scrapbook" is fairly forgettable piece about a couple, set in the aftermath of a Virginia Tech type college shooting spree. "The Butterfly Box" is equally forgettable -- although it manages to evoke brief spasms of loneliness from its sparseness.
Despite the conceit of a woman talking to her dead husband's ashes (contained in a curling rock), "Funny Weird or Funny Ha Ha?" is one of the more straightforward and better stories. It revisits the mother of the teenage boy from "Green Florescent Protein" as she comes to terms with her alcoholism. "Extremities" is probably my least favorite story, as it switches back and forth in perspective between a pair of calfskin gloves in a department store and an astronaut's talking foot. Enough said about that one the better... The final story, "Jaybird," is the longest, and totally draws the reader into its unsettling plot. Set amidst Montreal's acting community, it follows an established theater pro as he works with a mentee as part of studio project which is taken in a sinister direction.
The collection tends to rise and fall on the strength of the various stories' premises. These range from well-trodden to totally inventive, but Smith generally uses them well in exploring tenderness, loneliness, humor, tragedy, and farce in equal parts. His prose chops are often able to overcome any narrative weaknesses, however at time it can be a little too crisply controlled, exhibiting too much of the craftsman/technician about it. It' a solid-enough debut, and it would be interesting to see whether or not Smith's style would work in a novel.
These are a few of the introspective stories in Bang Crunch:
"Isolettes" introduces us to a young set of parents dealing with the extremity early birth of their child. The story examines the frailty of the new life, and the struggle the young mother has with finding love for the incubator-bound baby, wrapped in tubes and sensors.
"Green Florescent Protein" is about Max, a teen struggling to cope with several new situations. He recently moved to a new home in Westmont. His mother, a wacky, sober ex-drunk who talks to his father's cremated remains (which are housed inside a curling stone), deciding to give herself a "life overhaul." He also is struggling with a new feeling of attraction that goes past friendship with his closest friend, Ruby-Doo.
"The B9ers" - What happens when a survivor of a benign tumor starts a support group for others in the same situation? The B9ers captures the struggle of a group of people trying to return to normal life after a close call. They don't get the support and sympathy they need, since their tumors were not malignant, but still struggle along after surgery.
"Bang Crunch" - Is a look into the life of a girl with Fred Hoyle's syndrome, which ages her a year a day.
"Scrapbook" - Amy and her boyfriend struggle with the attack on a University German class that ends with the death of eight women. He was one of the survivors of the attack. This story delves into the "what ifs"? Why did this happen? The story also delves into the emotions of guilt and anxiety of being a survivor.
Armchair Interviews says: A debut short-story author to read and be encouraged to write more.