Collecting stories of what I can honestly say are the epitome of all that is bizarre, A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space is a trip through the mind of an author who is obviously comfortable with his burgeoning insanity. From the very first story, the reader is going to become painfully aware that not all is as it should be, and maybe you should treat your fruits the way they would like to be treated, and gobble them up before they feel neglected.
I’ll never look at a fruit bowl the same again…
IT’S AESOP, AS IMAGINED BY JOHN WATERS
A collection of twenty-three bizarro fables in which you’ll meet Nobody, a performing primate who wants to chew your children’s lips off; pontificate with the Stork, philosopher and feces-eater; rejoice as Nordin “The Noggin” Nobel, noted socialite, is reconciled to his estranged head; share the existential despair of Slothra the suicidal kaiju; celebrate the love of Violet and her rotting lover; explore the meaning of life with Dr. Ebenezer A.T. Horkenheimer, sociopath, and the geography of heaven and hell with Ted the mangled toy. And so much more…
This collection came out of nowhere at me. My basic understanding of Bizarro fiction assumed that the entirety of the genre was comprised of novellas and short novels, and that I wouldn’t be coming across any short stories at all. I was wrong. Oh so very wrong. And while I do enjoy an anthology of shorts every once in a while, but spaced far apart, I’ve got to say that this novella-sized collection blew me away. I feel fortunate to have been able to read it, and would suggest this to anyone who has a penchant for quick, weird, and quirky stories that border on insane.
Foster starts of the collection with a story that will change the way you look at fruit forever. Giving voice to a lonely clementine is the last thing you would expect from a normal short story, but given that this genre focuses on the strange, it’s commonplace to find a theme like this. The Course of Clementine shows Foster exceling is in his use of emotion while dealing with the personified citrus in question. It’s a sad little tale that transposes our basic yearning to belong, but transposes it onto a piece of fruit. Interesting and compelling, this is a fantastic start to a very special batch of stories.
The titular piece is a very strange one that elicts some of the same feelings as …Clemetine, in that the supposition of man’s need to belong is linked closely to his need to create and provide. In this story, the case is made for our lust for companionship and the inevitable possibility of its loss leaving us better off than its gain. At least, that’s what I took away from it. While genuinely steeped in strangeness and over-the-top themes, this collection is truly for the thinking man, and approaches philosophical more often than not. A Hollow Cube… is a perfect example of one of those stories.
Sometimes Foster leaves the realm of the intimidating, and goes straight for the down to earth stylings of bizarro writers like Prunty, Donihe, and Pepper, but adds a little bit of his own signature style. Snowman is a wonderful example of Foster’s ability to create a hilarious story and coupled with the next story, The Lingering Death of Christmas, serves to remind us that nothing is sacred. Even Santa Clause and Frosty the Snowman. I’ve got to hand it to the author here, I don’t think making snowmen or eating the cookies left on Christmas eve are ever going to be the same again. Hell, between Foster and Donihe, I’m pretty sure my brain has been significantly warper to that holiday season. (For more examples of Donihe’s work, look at his book “The Traveling Dildo Salesman“, which will be reviewed here very soon)
Foster’s style is downright intimidating. The lyrical flow of his prose is wonderful, and the subjects he tackles are more than sufficient for several head-scratching moments of discomfort and beguilement. The (Not Quite) Corpse and the Stork, Class of ’00, and The World are prime examples of the more metaphorical side of Foster’s work, while The Sheltering of Rutherford and The Assorted Suicides of Grover Grayson show a more abrupt, in your face style of storytelling that basically call the reader out on their beliefs, questioning what is really real in our world.
Like I already said, Foster has a style I haven’t seen in modern genre fiction for a while. He swings from down-to-earth all the way over to philosophical without missing a beat, and never stumbling over himself in the process. This is a collection I’d re-read, for sure.
In a turn of the FREAKING AWESOME, Foster has afforded us an exclusive reading of his short story The Marvelous Head, from this very collection. Listen to S.D. Foster read this in what he calls his “mutant US/UK accent, or stream the tale below. This is a phenomenal story. It’s something you don’t hear every day, and is a great taste of what I maintain is a very intimidating and sophisticated style of prose.
You can grab A Hollow Cube is a Lonely Space in Paperback and for your Kindle. You can visit S.D. Foster at his online home, Morbid Omelettes. Take a look Eraserhead Press for more Bizarro Fiction. If you’re interested in more Bizarro than you can shake a stick at, visit the online community known as Bizarro Central.