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Crazy Love

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Stories
  • by: Leslie What
  • Date Published: July 2008
  • ISBN-13: 1877655597
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 204pp
  • Price: $13.95
  • Review by: Cynthia Reeser

Leslie What, an author whose publication credits include numerous short stories in journals and anthologies as well as a novel and short story collection, is a Nebula Award Winner whose creativity and imagination are boundless. Crazy Love is a collection of 17 short stories that stop at nothing to convey the limitless possibilities of love and its tremendous potential for both honesty and hilarity.

Known as the Queen of Gonzo by contemporaries and reviewers, What’s style extends a tradition of writing that began with Hunter S. Thompson and is most concretely evidenced in the appropriately-named “Storytime.” The interjection of a first person narrative whose voice is that of the author’s, rewriting and revising and questioning her own tale, lends to a thoughtful presence of metafiction, a sort of auto-commentary whose honesty is an acknowledgement of the flaws of traditional storytelling. The story is not static, but questions itself through the author and is always open to interpretation. It is a tale that takes the grittiness of real life into account with a tale of two families – one whose dynamic is a flawless ideal and the other whose experience is far more realistic:

This is not the story I started out to tell, and I would like to begin again. I would like to change the ending, though to change the ending, I might have to change the beginning and I am not sure how to do that. It is difficult to change the beginning when the end has already been written. I wonder if some stories are just too sad to tell and it’s better to forget them.

The story is redefined as an entity whose borders and parameters are no longer fixed, but mutable.

What’s characters are compelling in their honesty, in their ability to convince the reader of the sincerity of their being. They are as varied as What’s fertile imagination, sometimes making a living dressed in a gorilla suit (“Finger Talk”); sometimes by being a professional victim (“The Cost of Doing Business”); sometimes they are even vampires. In “Going Vampire,” Victor is a Hollywood agent who falls in love for the first time in a decade, but the choice he makes is one of sacrifice – and for what else but love.

Love is the common thread throughout the stories, but its outcome isn’t always doomed as it is in stories like “Going Vampire,” “Finger Talk” and others. Sometimes love is a joyride. The couple in “Why a Duck” experience their last moments together in a hot air balloon and are destined to relive them together. While Anthony and Beatrice float along with a pilot who is completely ignorant of his otherworldly passengers, Anthony attempts to make a leap, both literally and metaphorically. Will they, as a couple, spend their eternity bickering over his penchant for ballooning and the resulting accident that ended their lives, or do they have the power to change their future? Anthony’s decision results in the couple's latching on to a duck from a passing flock, and a new adventure begins.

What understands that love sometimes means sacrifice, and is often painful and rarely rewarding – but her view is not always so fatalistic. Realism trumps optimism, trumps pessimism, trumps even love – every time. The Queen of Gonzo has a heart of gold, and a soaring imagination.

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Review Posted on December 01, 2008

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