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Review of How Some People Like Their Eggs

By (November 5, 2009) No Comment

How Some People Like Their Eggs

By Sean Lovelace

Rose Metal Press, 2009

Sean Lovelace is clever. His chapbook How Some People Like Their Eggs, the winner of the 2009 Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook Contest, is brimming with shrewd, energetic comparisons: two people aimlessly walk “like two paper cups blown across a grassy courtyard”; bubbles in beer rise “like glass elevators”; a pamphlet makes someone’s grip feel like “pin-pulled grenades.” Leukemia is described as a “disease wherein the white cells run amuck and drink too much cheap beer and urinate in public and hang from motel balconies and generally harm themselves and others like teenagers on spring break in Florida.” And all this comes from the opening story.

Sean Lovelace is funny. Here he offers excerpts from Charlie Brown’s diary. Yes, that Charlie Brown, the bald kid with a beagle named, well, you know. CB wakes up each day to “birds coughing” and reflects that his familiar refrain Good grief is “[a]n oxymoron, or maybe life.” Then there’s the story of a guy obsessed with bocce, who feels like “a cloud in someone else’s dream.” With inimitable style, Lovelace describes a stomach as “flopping like a halibut in an ice chest,” and rain falling on a roof “like a giant herd of tiny, tiny horses running circles of free-living gallop.”

In the title story, Lovelace describes how General Patton, Yogi Berra, Andy Warhol, Howard Hughes, Bonnie Parker, and Archduke (take a breath) Franz Ferdinand Karl Anikò Belschwitz Mòric Bálint Szilveszter Gömpi Maurice Bzoch János Frajkor Ludwig Josef von Habsburg-Lothringen (why Giuermo, Strezpek, Pinche, and van Haverbeke are left off is never answered) like their eggs served. For instance, Billie Holiday likes hers

Sunny Side Up, inverted. Like two dreams dropped from a great height. Big and round and shiny and flat. Served with a glass of rusty tap water. Served fourteen minutes after cooking. While cooling. While cool.

And most astutely of all, Lovelace, recognizing the famed genius’s inscrutability, observes that “[n]o human being knows how Thelonius Monk likes his eggs.”

Sean Lovelace slips easily between fantasy and reality, enough to make your own world spin. Besides members of the Peanuts gang, Ingrid Bergman makes a salacious appearance in “A Sigh is Just a Sigh.” You’ll also find Humphrey Bogart, admonishing that “a man needs to face what he’s made for himself.” In another story, a lawnmower gives a man “a don’t-even-think-about-it” look. How convincing the pathetic (remember the term is not pejorative) fallacies, how easy to suspend disbelief here.

And while Lovelace is a trickster and a jokester, he’s also empathetic, for even when his stories pirouette, go pyrotechnic, and slip the stream, he goes beneath the surfaces of things and finds as much gold as he does mud, lava, and earthworms. In “Crow Hunting,” Lovelace waxes lyrical and the results are masterful. You can’t help but sway to this line describing reappearing crows: “that final image, spiraling frame, buckling wings and heart, the curvature of returning.” Like Anne Sexton’s eggs, these stories “bloom and bleed.” And if you squint, you too might just see “a peony, a water clock, a lioness clutching at a crow,” swimming inside of them.

You could call these short stories, “short shorts,” without, of course, that Nair commercial from the eighties rattling your brain case; better yet, call these “flash fictions.” Actually, no, these are the word made flash. To tweak a Hilaire Belloc quote, “just as there is nothing between the admirable omelet and the intolerable,” so it is with fiction. And with How Some People Like Their Eggs we get the best of both feasts: culinary and literary.