Reviewer Christopher Willard: Chris is the author of the novel Garbage Head (Vehicule Press/Esplanade Books, 2005) and Sundre, (Vehicule Press/Esplanade, 2009). His fiction and poetry have also been published in Salon, Third Wednesday, Ranfurly Review, Ars Medica, Ukula, Coffee House Press, Broken Pencil, Sobriquet, and upcoming in the Broken Pencil Anthology titled Can't Lit. He currently lives in Calgary where he teaches at the Alberta College of Art + Design
Author: Susan Alcott Jardine
The Channel: Stories From L.A. sit inside a triangle framed on one side by the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents series, on the second side by Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction, and on the third by fiction written for young adults
Author: Susan Alcott Jardine
The Channel: Stories From L.A. sit inside a triangle framed on
one side by the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents series, on
the second side by Isaac Asimov’s Science
Fiction, and on the third by fiction written for young
The first story, Don’t Go Into the Killing Place is an effective young adult story for a few reasons. The focus is on a teenager who is transplanted for a summer and who undergoes a life-changing experience.
The writing is even with enough repetition so teenaged readers can get it. It’s the early 1950’s, the girl’s brother heads to the Korean War and the girl is sent to a chicken farm where her mother tells her not to go into the killing place. Remember the story’s title, now consider the plot opening and guess the ending. Adults know immediately that the brother will die and the girl will go into the killing place, but young adult readers, given their need for literal clarity, will probably relish the many indications of the impending finale.
The book’s cover depicts a young man in a hoodie amidst cosmic dust which should attract that readership. Alternatively, other stories appear somewhat geared to the adult reader. “Hello, You’ve Reached Amy Byington” is such a story, and the funniest work in the book, if you like dry humor. A nutcase prepares to commit suicide (note her name Byington/Dyington). She speaks endlessly about loose ends and unfinished business, she calls her dogs boys, she obsesses over a Chinese elm, and she speaks of a business woman named Meryl Jones (consider a combination of Merrill Lynch and Dow Jones) and her company H.R. Morgan (think J.P. Morgan).
We know by the first page that Amy will kill herself--the Thomas Carlyle quote “One life; a little gleam of time between two eternities” certainly helps -- but the author pretends that we don’t. She humorously gives clue after clue before finally having Amy sink into her eternal sleep as the BEEPS of the answering machine continue like heart monitor. It’s a subtle, over-the-top pastiche. On a broader level, Jardine loves unannounced shifts of time and place. She is also not afraid to start a plot and then apply lots of backstory in which details adorn every moment; if we didn’t remember which Bach punctuated one paragraph we’ll get another soon enough.
I think Jardine’s sense of location and time work best in Don’t Go Into the Killing Place. That and The Metamorphosis of Nathaniel Kronstadt are beginning to be the more polished works in the collection.