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Book Review: Empty Rooms Lonely Countries by Christian A. Dumais by Lisa Scherer
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Book Review: Empty Rooms Lonely Countries by Christian A. Dumais
Christian A. Dumais's anthology Empty Rooms Lonely Countries brings together 27 short stories previously published in various magazines including City Style, GUD and Crash Test in one breathtakingly brilliant collection. Each story is a stand-alone vignette that blends with the other short stories to create a bittersweet, witty study of human nature.
Most of the stories capture a funny experience or a wistful memory in the life of Dumais, as experienced or remembered by the anthology’s narrator. "Cowboys and Indians" is about a guy posing as a S.W.A.T. officer to crash a party. “Little Conundrums” is about meeting – and losing – a woman. "The Illusion of Swing" is about a writer writing about swing dancing. “Geneva Street” is a nostalgic look back at the house in which he lived as a child. Several of the stories in this collection have a fairy tale-esque feel to them or are even presented as fables.
Dumais’s theme, if there is one, is love: growing up and learning to love; the long and sometimes fruitless search for love; the thrill of new love; the pain and regret of lost love; love and loss and endings and beginnings and the joy and pain of remembering it all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Former Tampa resident Christian A. Dumais, a.k.a. "Puff Chrissy," now lives with his lovely wife and awesome dog in Poland, where he writes, teaches and blogs at www.puffchrissy.com.
WHAT I LIKED:
I adored the profound and poignant metaphors sprinkled throughout the book. Dumais describes swing dancing being as an illusion, a distraction that keeps people stuck in the past reminiscing over the good ole days instead of breaking new ground and having new experiences. There’s the depiction of life as a garden – we water what we can; sometimes things shrivel and die; and sometime we can blame the neighbors.
There are numerous lines in this book that really spoke to me, moved me or made me laugh (or sometimes all three):
"There are never any resolutions in life; everything is always left unsettled. Closure is a myth created by people who are too afraid to look at themselves."
"The pursuit of knowledge is really no different than dropping acid: most of the time it is a good thing. Sooner or later, it will turn on you and it will show you something you never wanted to see; then you will be left alone, covered in your own psychic blood, without ever being able to maintain the ecstasy of ignorance."
"My sources, the same one who had me in Scotland seeking the Holy Grail last year, informed me that Love might be hiding somewhere in Ybor."
“Beneath the statue was a homeless man wrapped up in several blankets. I could see from the clouds leaving his face that he was talking to himself, or perhaps he was singing. I couldn’t hear him either way. I wondered about the level of loneliness he must be feeling and what it must be like when you cannot escape the cold. And I remembered that this is the world that we live in; that there are some people who are lonely and who are cold, and there are people who don’t have a choice in the matter. Some choose to be ghosts in life, and some just are.”
“Carrying love is exhausting when you’ve no place to put it.”
“I still have your memories here all piled up. I had hoped you might’ve sent for them by now, but no, you haven’t.”
Dumais’s cynical-but-charming sense of humor is interjected throughout the book, like with the run-on sentence about an out-of-control life being like a run-on sentence or in nicknaming a beautiful woman Red Kryptonite because of her looks because “Red kryptonite makes Superman do things he wouldn’t normally do, like terrible things.”
Empty Rooms Lonely Countries is deeply reflective, thought-provoking, sad, cynical and touching, with moments of whimsy and humor. It took me a very long time to get through all 27 stories because it was so hauntingly, achingly bittersweet for me on a personal level. Thankfully, the last story ends on a hopeful note and the author’s bio on the very last page is hilarious and uplifting.
WHAT I DISLIKED:
The third quarter of the book drags a little bit and I found that some of the fantasy/fable stories required a little patience to get through.
Despite the melancholy, there are moments of sagacity and wisdom like I’ve rarely seen before. Empty Rooms Lonely Countries is easily one of my top ten favorite books of all time.
To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "FANGRRL" is ©2010 by Lisa Scherer. All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.