Reviewer Sandra Shwayder Sanchez: Sandra is
a retired attorney and co-founder of a small non-profit publishing
collective: The Wessex Collective with whom she has published two short fiction collections
(A Mile in These Shoes and Three Novellas) and one
Her most recent novel, The Secret of A Long Journey is soon to be released by Floricanto Press in April 2012 and her first novel, The Nun, originally published by Plain View Press in 1992 is being reissued in a 2nd Edition with additional material by PVP in March 2012.
Publisher: Some Dead Trees Press
Author: Clark Casey
Publisher: Some Dead Trees Press
After reviewing The Jesus Fish and Slaughter Bird by this author (which I had wanted to read to figure out that weird title and then got hooked on hanging out with the engaging characters) I was looking forward to reading more by Clark Casey. He has a talent for satire that one reader compared to Vonnegut and I’d have to agree. The Perfect Defective is 51 pages of satire and a lot of laughs. Pale Male is 49 pages of much more than satire including some beautiful lyrical writing about the flights of a Red Tailed Hawk in Manhattan’s Central Park and some interesting insights into male/female human relationships. And by the way, “Pale Male” does not refer to a White Anglo Saxon man as I first assumed, but that very Red Tailed Hawk who becomes something of a celebrity among birdwatchers living along the perimeters of the park.
“We learned that with
Pale Male’s penchant for opulence in choosing his residence he had
overlooked one primary detail in his species’ process of
development: the leaving of the nest. Normally fledgling hawks
will learn to fly by hopping from treetop to treetop until they get
the hang of being airborne. This was the first time in history, at
least that anyone knew about, that a hawk was born three stories
above the closest tree. Their first leap would be a tremendous one.
The bird watching community had doubled by this time. As the
fledglings practiced flappng their wings in the nest each day,
hundreds of binoculars focused above the window where my own private
crisis was unfolding.”
Clark Casey’s characters usually remember some early tragedy that informs their attitudes and actions and in Pale Male, the tragedy is the death of a younger sister he had tried hard but unsuccessfully to protect. I’ll never forget the poignancy of this scene:
“As I was coming back
with my paper, the bird was still rising a foot or two in the air,
then falling back to the safety of the nest. Suddenly a strong
gust of wind came up Fifth Avenue and lifted him several feet above
and beyond his perch. A second later, he dropped down below the
sill and there was no way for him to get back. He had no choice
but to go for it. A collective gasp came from the crowd across the
street. He flapped his wings frantically, only he didn’t know
enough to let his body glide. He kept swatting down to quickly
for the air to give him lift. He rose then fell, then rose and fell
some more. The bird people cooed then moaned at each foot he dropped.
It was a slow motion examply of trying to hard for your own good.
I could see all my failures in the bird’s descent. I had tried to hard to keep Sarah safe. I had placed too many restrictions on her. The nest I’d built for her was too high above the world. If I’d let her live closer to the earth, she’d have been better equipped to leave the nest. The fledgling spiraled toward the park, rising then plunging to the earth. It was unbearable to watch. Finally he crashed into the branches of an evergreen tree. The crowd was deathly silent for a moment. Then a screech came from within the branches and the birders all laughed with great relief. It was a screech that Sarah never emitted as her frail body flat lined.” (p.32-33)
It is a gift for that kind
of writing that enables this author to say so much in very few words.