Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Marry Me by Dan Rhodes

I tend to be fairly wordy, which is a serious handicap in our 140 character world. When I come across someone who can, unlike me, convey a world in very few words, I am impressed and a little awed. Dan Rhodes' newest story collection, Marry Me, is comprised of very brief flash fiction pieces, many of which contain a universe in their short paragraph(s).

Ranging from a paragraph in length to a couple of pages, each story is fully self contained. Thematically, they are all similar, focusing on relationship, engagements, weddings, marriage, and divorce. Rhodes doesn't present the hearts and flowers version of any of this. Instead he cheerfully skewers each in turn. And rather than containing raptures, his brief flashes are composed of wry observations, cynical black humor, and casual uneasiness. They make a pretty forceful statement about the ridiculous expectations we put on the trappings of marriage (both prior to and afterwards) and the way in which society has caused us to look for the unrealistic in our relationship lives and loves.

This is not a collection celebrating marriage or love by any stretch of the imagination but it is hilarious. I did truly laugh out loud as I read it. I also snorted derisively. And I shook my head in disgust. The stories are quirky, sarcastic, and even farcical. They chronicle an awful lot of unhappiness, acceptance of the mediocre, and the way in which we treat marriage as disposable. Because the short collection of 80 stories revolves around the same theme, some of the stories feel repetitious and it is a bit odd that there's no alternate vision of marriage offered as a counterbalance but over all, as a collection, this is a fantastic read. It can easily be read in one sitting but is perhaps best dipped into to maintain the impact of the stories individually.

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