See You In Paradise
The novel of 2012 was J. Robert Lennon’s ‘Familiar.’ A staggering book that I, and many others, overlooked in light of the other splendid novels published. You cannot put such oversights right. The best you can do after the event is praise them and credit them their due. ‘Familiar’ was a fantastic novel worthy of the very highest praise. So then, after recognising my error you would have thought I wanted have repeated it. My missing this book with its collection of short stories was not so much missing it, I knew of its publication, but rather my putting off until tomorrow that which I should have done today. Again, I apologise.
When you open the first pages of ‘See You In Paradise’ it is rather like entering an art gallery, one whose primary function is to present art that is funny, moving, charming, electrifying, surreal, absurd and highly inventive.
There are fourteen black paintings, fourteen short stories that bedazzle the mind while engaging the intellect. Nothing is sacred in Lennon’s world. He bows to no known sacred cows seeing all and everything as fair game for his quick-fire imagination. In many ways he is the American equivalent to Magnus Mills in that he too has a hilarious, slightly subversive, sometimes a little more unnerving, deadpan delivery. It’s all a bit bonkers yet never outwardly so. He manages to keep a tight rein on that wilful streak of his allowing only splintered cracks to appear in the main frame that add rather than detract from his narratives.
Each of these swellegant, elegant short stories, these sumptuous bites of literary delights is a novel in miniature. It takes real talent to do that. Of course English teachers through the ages have been telling us that it is the short story that profiles fine literature best.
From the EC Comics like ‘Portal’ with its doorway to nowhere in particular to the divinely quixotic ‘Hibachi’ through the wicked ‘A Stormy Evening at the Buck Snort Restaurant’ to the quasi-horrific ‘The Wraith’ we are in for a hell of a treat.
When I reviewed ‘Familiar’ I closed by suggesting it was “a schizophrenic orgy.” And then concluding “Not since Peter Ackroyd’s brilliant thriller ‘Hawksmoor’ have I read anything so wilfully psychotic.” In many ways this novel dances around those careening edges formulating madness as it meets head on sanity. See You In Paradise is a combustive force of literature.