by Jason Ockert
Low Fidelity Press
Rabbit Punches by Jason Ockert is a collection of thirteen short stories that are connected but not actually connected. The common thread is the trial of an underdog character who’s bailing water out of a sinking boat.
While Ockert’s being touted as “an exciting new American talent” (George Saunders, Pastoralia), I can’t agree based on this collection alone. The first story about a rather dimwitted man who sells dictionaries door to door sets the dark tone for the rest of the book. The dictionary salesman’s having an affair with the boss’s wife who’s obviously using him as her personal puppet. Without giving it all away, the story ends in an undreamt of place. The twelve remaining stories are equally offbeat.
Each of these stories share the same pattern: they start off quirky and interesting, then go into leftfield, and end unfinished and so far out in the field that you’ll never find your way back. Some seem more like convoluted thoughts jotted down on a bar napkin. Thinking I’d skipped a page, I often had to reread pieces of the stories and then sadly realized I hadn’t missed anything.
One of the stronger stories is “Some Storm,” the strange tale of a brother who sets out to find his pregnant sister a husband. Figuring the first man to knock him off a hill will make a good husband for his sister, the brother puts up a sign in his rural town asking anyone who had “rutted” with his sister to come and meet him. The relationship with the brother and sister is bizarre to begin with, but by the time you meet the weird alcoholic father, you’ve got a Springer episode. I won’t even go into the rest of the kooky cast of characters.
I would recommend this book only for those who are attracted to strange and offbeat tales. If you choose to brave this one, be ready for a mental workout. Get comfortable — you’ll be there for a while.
Low Fidelity Press: www.lofipress.com