Jarred from One Scene to the Next |Review of “My White Planet” by Mark Anthony Jarman (2008) Thomas Allen Publishers

Planet

Reading a collection of short stories vaults a reader from one scene to the next and with it one emotion to another. It can be disconcerting for a reader but that is not necessarily a bad thing. If a reader is open to emphasizing with the protagonists in the stories, then the collection can be a personal enlightenment for the reader. And My White Planet by Mark Anthony Jarman is a great collection of short stories for doing just that.

Night March in the Territory – page 1

Post-battle march, stormy sky, no light. The weary surgeon pores over our bloody wounds, pours himself another drink. We hear our orders travel down the slope: Bury the officers, but not the enlisted men. A blunt message to us peons.

In this Territory there is too much light, then there is absolutely no light, then there is absolutely no light. The surgeon hides crates of brandy in his white tent. I would take a drink, some corn. We are bloodied and splayed like egrets on the oatgrass.

Where’s old Crabtree? I ask.

Stay here and you’re dead.

They shot Crabtree. They shot all of us.

Dead?

No answer from the yarb-doctor.

There is a brilliance in the way Jarman vaults us into deeply personal situations of anonymous characters in vague locations. We are pulled into each story and read on trying to found out more. But we are given more profound thoughts and deep emotions then the ending is upon us. The process is almost cleansing to read to the psyche and somewhat addictive to be wondering what more is involved in each story.

My White Planet – Page 26-27

We inhabit a line station secretly functioning after the accord, but something went dead after June 11. Our dishes and software seem without flaw, but our screens remain blank, thoughtless. No printouts. No officiant plies us with coded orders or fervent denials or demands our narrow circumspect data. Is everyone erased in a war or did a budget-conscious computer take us out in a bureaucratic oversight? We are paid puppets, but no one is pulling the strings and no cheque is in the mail.

The freezing girl is alive but unconscious, and our ungenerous God has delivered a delirious female to our ice garden where we look at each other in wonder, wondering about things, about our farm-girl concubine with drained lips, our charcoal-eyed dream girl, our homage, our stockpiled ohmage.

Peter the Preacher pulls out his blue-grey Czech pistol, says he’ll shoot us or kill her rather than let her be touched, and we know what he means, means our ugly paws on her lily-white flesh other than to save her, resurrect her, and I believe I once dreamed this part too, saw Peter the Preacher’s fine skull and fine rhetoric and his fine Czech pistol at our nostril hairs.

I was introduce to Jarman’s work via novelist William Kowalski. (Link to my Q&A with him) and read reviews of his work by Mark Sampson (Link to Sampson’s review of Jarman’s latest work Knife Party at the Hotel Europa.) One can see traits all these writers  have in common. It is almost evolutionary the way both explore the range of insecurities that their characters have and the situations they get themselves into.

Bear on a Chain– Page 57

Another bridge’s ethereal arches float to the southeast. His body fell from this bridge and passed under the exact middle of the second bridge, and when I look I feel I am looking down a gunsight. Trev came from the north side, ended up on the south side, had no lessons. And the course is pass-fail. He dropped out, they lost him on the radar.

A north-sider tells me that your lungs fill up with river water and you sink down with the new weight, lower and lower and gone.

How stunningly simple to leave our corner of the world, how fast, how easy – poof? Blink and you miss it. I demand more time, complications, pomp and circumstance, demand more pay dirt.

Walk along  the river, drive in a car over the river, see it every day for x number of years, mundane as an insurance office, an ordinary postcard, then one day you fall into the boring postcard and the boring postcard kills you.

My White Planet by Mark Anthony Jarman is an emotional yet enlightening collection of short stories. A reader that shouldn’t be rush and a read that should be pondered upon.

 

*****

Link to the University of New Brunswick’s biography page for Mark Anthony Jarman

Link to Dundurn Press’ page for My White Planet

 

 

2 thoughts on “Jarred from One Scene to the Next |Review of “My White Planet” by Mark Anthony Jarman (2008) Thomas Allen Publishers

  1. I met Mark Anthony Jarman in my first year at McGill. Brilliant short fiction and he gathers many of his lines from found poetry in his notebook. Lines in restaurant menus, traffic signs, or wherever he happens to be at the moment. And yes, it does make for a ‘jar-ing’ effect!

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