Nothing is as it seems in Richard Krause’s second collection of stories, The Horror of the Ordinary.
The 23 stories play with appearances, ironies and mysteries. Some stories deal with masks characters hide behind. Fur coats or good deeds or fat or escape conceal ulterior motives. Sometimes the crimes characters obsess over bringing to justice are the very crimes they fear they commit. Other stories turn perceptions on their heads. A sniper’s target is mistaken as Osama bin Laden. A restaurant customer can hardly eat his food imagining it was made by Israeli operatives, when, in fact…. The stories reference Kafka, only, in these tales, animals are personified rather than people turning into animals. The final narratives are longest and most self-reflective and existential, asking questions about identity and the nature of storytelling.
First sentences tantalize. “It was like he was visiting them,” one story begins. What is “it”? Who is “he” and “them”? The narrator is often tangential to the main character, a distant yet invested observer. As the stories progress and pronouns become persons, the point is not for the plot to become clear; rather, the point is the act of uncovering layers that obscure and complexify the truth. The texture is rich and thoughtful.
Much contemporary literature taunts readers to deduce the target its symbols point to. Instead, Krause is candid with symbols, fileting them open and exploring their depths. Beetles, cockroaches and splinters explode into infestations. Political and personal atrocities plague the text, from the treatment of animals to concentration camps to orphanages to food hoarding during the Great Depression to the current obesity crisis. Sexual fantasies turn perverse. Pedophiles lurk in plain sight. Victims inflict revenge when perpetrators least expect it. Be ready to confront a disturbing dark side in these stories. The bright side is the book’s careful, artistic attention to visceral and psychological detail developed into stories as intricate as a Japanese puppet show.
The Horror of the Ordinary is a collection of surreal, grotesque and beautiful short fiction breaking open the mundane as a carrier for the absurd. Find the book on Amazon