Tuesday, October 12, 2010

James R. Tomlinson: Adopted Behaviors

Adopted Behaviors: Flash Memoir, Short Stories & Flash Fiction by James R. Tomlinson. [Detroit]: Motor City Burning Press, 2010.

“The Trigger Man & His Accomplice”
“A Creative Nonfiction Escape”
“This One’s for the Birds”

“Adopted Behaviors”
“Bread & Water Revival”
“Thumbprints, Deadlines”
“Jail Bait”

“The Sober Truth about Tyler & Zachary on Bickerstaff Street”
“Still Life in Detroit”
“If You’d Only Pay Attention”

Jim Tomlinson intones many of the selections included here with a wry -- and sly -- voice, reminding me of William S. Burroughs (especially Junky). There’s almost always an intentionally displaced sense of time and space as in Costa-Gavras films like Z and Missing.*

“Jail Bait” reminds me in part of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit a Crime,” but inverting Coumadin for Red Devil Lye -- and reversing the intent of the woman from loathing to affection.

Tomlinson’s choices for names are interesting. Is it synchronicity or coding? I don’t know. But take the first line in this story:

“Joshua Liddy swallows rat poison and rushes out the door to beat the high school bus to the corner of Samsa and Conner” – to peep at a young musician he calls Greta (like Hansel and Gretel?) 

Liddy makes me think of G. Gordon Liddy; Samsa, of Gregor Samsa from Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung / The Metamorphosis. So far as I can tell looking at a Detroit street map, there’s a Connor but not a Samsa; I have no idea where "Jolene and Lareby“ might be, either. Then there’s the character named Rizzo – bringing to mind Rizzo the Ratso from Midnight Cowboy. Rizzo likes vermiculite:

"Vermiculite," he repeats, "helps the plants to grow. I told you that. . ."  

It’s fun to get caught in the mesh, looking for new clues, absorbing the tales entirely and also deconstructing them.

From "Thumbprints, Deadlines,“ here’s a deftly detailed  working class scene – it would seem as truthful an observation of neighbors in my Pennsylvania hometown during the 1960s as for the narrator in Hazel Park, Michigan: 

My childhood home two blocks away, a bluish-grey bungalow with a fatigued yellow porch and rusted-metal awning. From that porch, I last saw my father standing in the front yard, sporting a hunter’s orange cap and matching rain slicker; a sot with a balled-up fist clutching mother by her frizzy blond hair while she swung her cast-iron frying pan, not in defense, but as a tool of her emotion. You turned down overtime, didn’t you?

To quote JR: "Adopted Behaviors is . . . related in some way to the human condition and/or prison experience." Also note: "He teaches convicted felons for the Michigan Department of Corrections." 

Though the examples given above are from the longer pieces, I like JR's flash memoirs and flash fiction even more. They are pithy, too.

It’s good to see Motor City Burning Press revving up. Before you can say John Lee Hooker, more productions, I suspect, will be wooshing down the road.


*Free associating, these things surface after re-reading Adopted Behaviors: Deadpan agency. Culpability. Accomplices – complicities – implications -- accomplishments. Everything is part of the dynamic. PoV remains actually involved while seemingly detached. Shared ownership of what happens, part of the mix. Complexity.
Today's Rune: Harvest.


Charles Gramlich said...

I enjoyed this collection quite a lot myself. Nice review!

jodi said...

Hi Erik, next month I am going to get to meet JR. I plan to buy his book then! Nice review. Wish you were coming to our throwdown so I could meet you, too!

Luma Rosa said...

Thanks for your submission! I did not know, really!
Erik, as elections are around?
Good week! Beijus,

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the review Eric. Nice work.

Lana Gramlich said...

JR's way cool & very talented. Kind of you to feature him on your blog. :)

ivan@creeativewriting.ca said...

I also got my copy of Adopted Behaviors about a year ago. I liked it and said so in my blog.

Speaking of U.S. elections, I recently got this from Boston:

Dear Ivan,

While searching for resources and news about politics and tax issues, I came across http://islandgrovepress.blogspot.com/ and thought your audience would find this graphic interesting.

It illustrates a recent quote from U.S. Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren about taxes, breaking down and highlighting statistics and the affects taxes have among businesses, government and the people.

You can view and embed the graphic from the source:

Warren on Importance of Taxes
(Permalink: http://www.onlinembaprograms.org/warren-quote)

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me. Thanks!

....Somebody in New England is reading my blog?

awsome peter. lol.