Hobart # 9 takes us back to our youth when video games were black and white, hookers were a few keystrokes away, playground ballgrabbing was cause for nasty nicknames, and mothers left fathers. The stories in this collection are as addictive as the games their characters play – pool, Scrabble, chess, poker, Jenga, blackjack, and Magic: The Gathering.
These are stories of adults reverting to child-like states, stories of children trying to be adults, stories of childhood experiences and the retrospective understanding of the imperfection in such things. Take, for example, Mary Miller’s narrator in “Pearl”:
He asked me about books, what kind of books I liked. He’d seen me reading in the break room at lunch. I could see it had just occurred to him that he might ask me a question.
“I like books about fucked-up people,” I said. “The kind you have to tear the cover off because there’s a girl on the toilet staring at her shadow.”
Five other reasons you should read Hobart #9:
- Stefan Kiesbye’s move from playful to schizophrenic
- The triumph/defeat of Dave Madden’s narrator
- Brandi Wells’ stop-and-go structure
- The striking raw imagery (imagery of things raw) in E.P. Chiew’s story about a couple coping with the effects of a stillborn birth:
She stared him down. His eyelid developed a twitch. He began to emit sounds as if gagging, but they sounded like dry hacking laughter. A fissure cracked open between them, and into it fell all the filmy, albumen-like things they did not say.
Venture into the world of video games with an homage to Leisure Suit Larry. Enjoy “The Hobart Role-Playing Forum” in which writers speak about their personal journeys to and from Dungeons and Dragons. The interviewer, Matthew Simmons, introduces the piece:
Fantasy role-playing was a gateway drug to fantasy novels. It was also a gateway drug to other types of role-playing. Gamma World. Call of Cthulhu. Paranoia.
Paranoia, a black comedy, a slapstick science fiction game that was set in an underground complex run by an insane, paranoid computer out to kill mutants and members of secret societies. (The joke being that everyone in the underground complex was both a mutant and a member of a secret society.) Add Paranoia to a love of reading bolstered by fantasy novels, and Kafka is not far behind. William Burroughs is not far behind. The Crying of Lot 49 is not far behind.
This issue is quirky, funny, lyrical, disturbing. I could call it many things, but I will never call it ordinary. Hobart #9 is a touchdown on the opening run; it’s a hole in one from the first tee; it’s the opening A3 that hits the Battleship. I look forward to what comes next.