Book Review: Fly on the Wall

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to eavesdrop on conversations with the ease of knowing you’d never be caught? To see all and hear all, whether it be something as unusual as a father sporting his wife’s favourite dress, or as sickening as a manager with a fetish for kiddy porn? Well, in this book, you can. Fly On The Wall is a collection of short stories — coined “punch-fiction” — that’s main purpose is to exploit all the deviant behaviours that people sometimes engage in.

In this book, you witness all that is deemed shameful, unacceptable and immoral in society. Want to read about a zookeeper who gets off through groin massages from an elephant? It’s in there. Or what about a KKK member who is killed by a scorpion lurking in his cloak? It’s got that, too. And then there’s the little old antique storeowner who cons a hoodlum into selling her a priceless candle box for only 500 bucks. You get the gist. In all, Fly On The Wall features 53 short stories from Alberta- based author Jason Brink. Interestingly, each piece also comes with a pen and ink illustration from artist Jim Westergard. It is the drawings in particular that really add a dark and unsettling air to Brink’s words, imbuing them with a sort of sick, voyeuristic element. The pieces, themselves, are actually fairly short, rarely spanning beyond two pages.

And while quick and dirty scenarios seem to be part of Brink’s punch-fiction formula, it leads to a detachment from the plot and characters on the reader’s end. Sure, the material can be shocking, but the intensity is lost when the reader doesn’t care about whom they’re reading about and what’s happening to them. It also makes the pieces somewhat predictable as they always begin with the fly, are scantily fleshed out with a random cardboard character in some exceptional circumstance, which often squeezes out a small gasp from the reader upon resolution. So while the notion of indulging your inner Peeping Tom seems juicy, it loses its taste pretty quickly. Nevertheless, Fly On The Wall is a quick and painless read that deviates from the usual short story collection. Go ahead; take a peek. (Amy Greenwood)

by Jason Brink, drawings by Jim Westergard, $22.95, 220 pgs, ECW Press, 2120 Queen Street East Suite 200, Toronto, ON, M4E 1E2

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