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ADELAIDE Independent Quarterly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Trimestral, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  

 

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COULROPHOBIA & FATA MORGANA
By Jacob M. Appel

 

Paperback: 182 pages
Publisher: Black Lawrence Press (September 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1625579535
ISBN-13: 978-1625579539
Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches

 

COULROPHOBIA , an extreme or irrational fear of clowns & FATA MORGANA,  an unusual and complex form of superior mirage that is seen in a narrow band right above the horizon “significantly distorting the  object on which it is based, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable” – is unmistakable appropriate choice of a title for a collection of short stories by Jacob M. Appel. Not only because Coulrophobia and Fata Morgana are titles of two out of ten stories in the series, but because all ten stories have a kind of neorealistic outlines -  reality distorted to the point of grotesque, often creepy and raw, sometimes comic, yet disturbing.

No matter if the subject of the story is violence, like in “The Butcher’s Music,”  “The Punishment,” and “Pollen,” or family and marriage conflicts and issues, in other seven stories, Appel uses his wordsmith skills, almost purposely, to toy with reader’s perceptions leading to unpredictable storyline outcomes.

In Fellini-like manner, with the confidence of somebody who knows exactly what he is talking about, he is bringing to us “images of lives”  uncommon and unique, yet real and material, and it feels like it is happening and coexisting next door or down the street, just as we read. In the world we live today, nothing is unusual. Similar stories to Appel’s could be easily seen on the local evening news each day without getting any particular attention. But through Appel´s narrations, we get deeply impressed and disturbed with the abyss of human shortcomings. This is an ability that many writers would like to have, but it is not obtainable just through training. It is called “talent.”

With catchy page-turning plots and well-developed characters in the limited space of a short story, it is almost certain that each of Appel’s stories could be easily converted into complete novels with further deepening of the existing scenes. Contrary, that is exactly where author´s skill to write about complex themes in a concise and perceptive manner, without losing any of the narrative effects,  comes to full expression. 

If you like psychological fiction short stories that will provoke you to think about various issues of everyday life, if you prefer “intellectual gymnastic” versus entertainment, Jacob M. Appel is your writer.

If this is star rating, it would be an easy five-star rating. Highly recommended!

Review by Stevan V. Nikolic


Jacob M. Appel is the author of the novels, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, which won the 2012 Dundee International Book Award, and The Biology of Luck (2013). His story collection, Scouting for the Reaper (2014), won the Hudson Prize.  Other collections include The Magic Laundry (2015) and Phoning Home: Essays (2014).   He taught for many years at Brown University and currently practices medicine at the Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital.

To read an interview with Jacob. M. Appel, please click here.

 

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