By Kevin Marchand, Connections Intern
TurtleFace and Beyond by Arthur Bradford
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
The world you’ll find in the pages of Arthur Bradford’s new short story collection, TurtleFace and Beyond, is certainly a bizarre one. And yet it is somehow perfectly believable. By the end you can’t help but feel saddened at the thought of leaving it.
Bradford should be considered one of the contemporary masters of the short story form. For thirteen stories you follow the life of Georgie, as he tries to make his way through a disconnected world of selfish friends and outright absurdity. Of course, it doesn’t help that Georgie is a complete doormat and is constantly allowing himself to be manipulated by those around him; dragged headfirst into the most ridiculous situations one could possibly imagine. Take, for example, the title story when he gets stuck watching over a strange 217 pound dog. All we can ask is how? And when we open up to the story “Lost Limbs” Georgie tells us, “It wasn’t until my second date with Lenore that I discovered one of her arms was missing.” Wow.
Moments like this are precisely why we love Georgie. We might slap our forehead as we watch him try to suck the venom out of a stranger’s leg in the car on his way to a wedding (obviously smearing blood all over his nice shirt… for which he has characteristically forgotten a tie), but still we love him. And this isn’t anywhere close to the craziest situation Georgie gets himself into. Throughout the collection we see Georgie high on LSD with his friend’s sick infant in his arms, or nursing a wounded turtle back to health, or prematurely ejaculating all over the face of a girl in Thailand during an unexpected and overwhelming threesome.
Again, the head slap.
If you like strange then this is definitely the book for you. Bradford’s writing style is poignant and engaging and right to the point. His dialogue is at times outrageous, but somehow perfect. There is no time to question what is going on because he drags you along at the same dizzying speed as Georgie’s life is dragging him. You’ll find yourself feeling all the emotions that Georgie should be feeling but seemingly can’t comprehend or else doesn’t care to explore. And when you put the book down and start watching TV or doing the laundry, you’ll surely just stop and think, “Oh, Georgie.”