Thursday, May 2, 2013
Half as Happy by Gregory Spatz
As with most short story collections, Half as Happy defies easy summation. There’s a pair of identical twins, in love with the same woman; a big game hunter who’s having some marriage trouble; a bowmaker. and plenty of sex and death. In Spatz’s world, sex and death are ever-present spectres, the former to bring together, the latter to pull irreconcilably apart.
And everyone is always disappearing. Some people die. Some retreat so far into themselves that they disappear. One character diets until she almost literally plucks herself from existence. And yet, this world of incorporeal humans, prone to vanish at the slightest touch, is still populated by fully-formed, believable people, people who have a choice to make, a choice that, unbeknownst to them, decides their existence or lack of it.
I realize this review is a little more abstract than usual, but the themes Spatz wrestles with resonate with me. The world of Half as Happy, in spite of its often sad circumstances, is not a deterministic one--the characters often make the wrong decision, but the decision is theirs to make. And the melancholy collection ends--and this may be a very minor spoiler--on a happy note just in case the reader had gotten the idea that bad choices are always the end.