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Stories From Real Life

By: Tony Crunk; art by Peter Wilm
Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen
Greencup Books, 2008
$12.95, Paperback

Interesting, thought provoking, and eye-opening—all of these adjectives add up to Stories from Real Life, a collection of short fiction by poet and children’s writer Tony Crunk with artwork by Peter Wilm.

Crunk’s prose style of writing is idiosyncratic. The short stories are unrelated. Do not expect character development, linear plots, or any plots. For example, the unnamed character in the story “Smoking” gives a description of activities in a bus station:

…someone is pulling a handle on a vending machine and someone is opening a shopping bag and one of the drivers is walking by popping gum and someone is leading a kid into the bathroom and the clock ticks and everyone is standing still like in a photograph…So that’s why I took up smoking. Because if you smoke you can walk up to some guy leaning in the doorway of the snack bar and say, “Got a light?”

After reading these one to two page short stories, I surmise that Crunk toys with words and phrases. To some readers of this book, coherent communication may be unattainable. It is an individualistic and relativistic work primarily approachable by the author himself or by those who make a study of the author and his writings or, perhaps, to the Richard Brautigan aficionado.

Also in this book is the story “Roger.” It starts and ends in seven sentences:

That night, Roger cried himself to sleep.
“I can’t go on,” he sobbed into his pillow. “I can’t go on. I can’t go on.”
The next day was Thursday. The sun rose. Roger got
up, put on his pants, and went to work.

That is it…brief and not a strain for greater meaning, outside of the obvious existential angst. Other stories are part humor, part pathos, emitting laughter, sorrow, and some suffering.

Along with each story is the artwork of Peter Wilm. His black and white drawings, which are very good if quirky, bring a visual view of the stories and their primary characters. After reading the stories, I am moved to take a closer look at Wilm’s pictures.

Don’t look here for a children’s book, a genre in which Crunk is well versed and equally well received. I recommend this book to young adult and adult readers due to the language content in some of the stories. Quite frankly, I look forward to reading more of Tony Crunk’s works and seeing more of Peter Wilm’s drawings.

Linda A. McQueen is the Library Media Specialist at McNeel School-DYS Vacca Campus and a cooperating teacher in the Writing Our Stories program.

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