Surfing with Snakes and Dragons and Other Tales of Suburbia by Roger J Couture

Sometimes, to get out from under it, you have to relax and go with the wave instead of fighting it.  In this novel, comprised of eight short stories, by Roger J Couture, he takes on many personae, from someone much like himself – a man who works hard to play hard in the ocean – to party-loving young women to street hustlers to tattoo artists, all who “go with” the wild, salty energy within them.  Couture’s years of labor on this book bear fruit in the myriad details about places, personality and inner-lives with which he crafts his tales.  The stories are like waves that wash over us, and at the end, we come out a little water-logged but alive and refreshed.

The first, and title, story presents the two main characters both bound to each other as to their own demons.  And in their common struggle, they find a sort of release.  The tales that follow expand their back stories.  Part of the fun of the book is picking them out in these subsequent narratives, when their names and settings might change.  In “Dawn Patrol,” two brothers share a harrowing morning adventure on the waves.  “Prancing Red Stallion” tells of two favorite young women among the tattoo parlor crowd.  In “Spin, Cock, Pull,” we get the tattoo artist’s perspective, his agonizing release of that which could have released him from life.  Two new acquaintances stroll through the ‘hood in “Incidental Encounter.”  From the ‘hood we travel to the upper echelons of society in “Two Feet In,” as a daughter navigates her mother’s Ivy League aspirations for her, her dad’s racing car driving influence and her own wishes.  “Baja Flowers” celebrates a surfer’s return from an emergency surgery required after a bike accident.  Lastly, we’re left with a cliff-hanger when an almost-grad ends a night of drunken adventure to start her post-collegiate life in “Loves, Lovers and Mistresses.”  

Each story begins with a poem, a synopsis, that also serves to tie the stories together.  The poems give us a taste of the elegant prose with which Couture dignifies even the ugliest threats, deadliest thoughts, or most down-home speech, in short, the varied hues of the stories.  In this way, he reminds of David Foster Wallace.  The tattoo artist says, “an artist’s life is a traipse across a tightrope of the rational – observing below an unbalancing dimension of illusions seeking for that inspirational spark with which to alight a blank canvas with a fire of life – while the thin rope of sanity, and the artist, remains uncharred, connected, and whole” (172).  The artist-author might come away “uncharred,” but we readers come away wholly affected and ready to meet the next wave that comes at us with as much fortitude, ferocity and impulse as Couture and his characters.  book site

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Author: marilivtollefson

I teach and play violin when not reading and reviewing books. Thanks to indie authors for opening my world and sharing theirs! Find my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, Midwest Book Review and BookPage, among others.

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