Bang Crunch Hardcover – Jan 16 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Montreal-based translator Smith debuts with nine stories, some of which hit the mark. In The B9ers, a man forms a support group for people who have had benign tumors removed, and that's where the action stops: a weak subplot involving fraud by a representative of an orphanage fails to give the story much bite. In Isolettes, a woman has a baby with the use of her friend's sperm, yet when catastrophe strikes after the birth, the general airlessness of the writing makes it hard to access her feelings. Similarly, the collection's longest story, Jaybird, profiles an ambitious actor led into an extremely revealing performance by his agent's secretary under false pretenses, but the denouement unfolds mutedly. Smith's poise finds its best home in Extremities, which follows a pair of gloves from one owner to another and finally through a murder, and in the title story, in which a woman ages forward too rapidly, and then backward just as rapidly. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
“Bang Crunch is a wonder. Devastatingly witty, heartfelt and wise. YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.”
Praise for Neil Smith:
“Smith’s numerous talents collapse the distance between maniacal violence and the insecurities and inadequacies beneath the surface of daily life.”
—The Globe and Mail
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Top Customer Reviews
I especially enjoyed "The B9ers", the story of a support group for people who had benign tumors. Yes, you read write, the non-lethal variety of tumor. This story was both humorous and touching.
Another story I enjoyed was the title story, "Bang Crunch". It's the touching story about a girl born with Fred Hoyle syndrome. First she ages rapidly and then goes backward, back to an embryo again.
There were only 2 stories that I didn't care for at all. "Green Fluorescent Protein" and "Extremities". They were just too "out there" for me.
Neil Smith is a strong writer. He writes with sensitivity and wicked humour. Though I didn't like all the stories in this collection, I highly recommend it. The stories I enjoyed were well worth the time!
Of the nine short stories in the collection, there are a few that have frustratingly mundane concepts – including the after school special topics of a teenager questioning his sexuality and one about surviving cancer. These premises, although dull, are rescued to a one by delicate and finely crafted prose; there're few words out of place in the book, and not a sentence that doesn't feel like it has been distilled down.
Those stories where the quality of the concept matches the writing – the title foremost among them – are marvelous things, and all of the stories do end up compelling. I don't mean this to be a negative review, because Bang/Crunch is wonderful to read and the product of a spectacular writer. It's just that it feels a bit like a nice new paint job on a rickety shack. Very nice on the outside, but I wouldn't want to stay long.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The opener, "Isolette," is a heartbreaker of loneliness about two unconventional friends who have a baby together. To a certain extent, it might be a mistake to place such an affecting story at the front of the collection, as it sets a very high standard that none of the other stories match. For example, immediately after it comes "Green Florescent Protein," which is a nicely crafted but ultimately conventional story about a teenage boy struggling to admit his attraction to his his best friend. Then comes, "The B9ers," which is perfectly emblematic of the collection as a whole -- also well written, the story is both funny and wan as it follows John Smith (the ultimate benign name) as he founds a support group for people with benign tumors.
The title story is the shortest of the lot, a ten-page ramble about a girl who suffers from an fictional disease which causes her aging process to accelerate, making her a genius at a young age. But once she reaches her theoretical maximum age, the disease reverses, causing her to revert in age -- in other words, it's a Jonathan Lethemy conceptual riff based on the Big Bang theory. "Scrapbook" is fairly forgettable piece about a couple, set in the aftermath of a Virginia Tech type college shooting spree. "The Butterfly Box" is equally forgettable -- although it manages to evoke brief spasms of loneliness from its sparseness.
Despite the conceit of a woman talking to her dead husband's ashes (contained in a curling rock), "Funny Weird or Funny Ha Ha?" is one of the more straightforward and better stories. It revisits the mother of the teenage boy from "Green Florescent Protein" as she comes to terms with her alcoholism. "Extremities" is probably my least favorite story, as it switches back and forth in perspective between a pair of calfskin gloves in a department store and an astronaut's talking foot. Enough said about that one the better... The final story, "Jaybird," is the longest, and totally draws the reader into its unsettling plot. Set amidst Montreal's acting community, it follows an established theater pro as he works with a mentee as part of studio project which is taken in a sinister direction.
The collection tends to rise and fall on the strength of the various stories' premises. These range from well-trodden to totally inventive, but Smith generally uses them well in exploring tenderness, loneliness, humor, tragedy, and farce in equal parts. His prose chops are often able to overcome any narrative weaknesses, however at time it can be a little too crisply controlled, exhibiting too much of the craftsman/technician about it. It' a solid-enough debut, and it would be interesting to see whether or not Smith's style would work in a novel.
These are a few of the introspective stories in Bang Crunch:
"Isolettes" introduces us to a young set of parents dealing with the extremity early birth of their child. The story examines the frailty of the new life, and the struggle the young mother has with finding love for the incubator-bound baby, wrapped in tubes and sensors.
"Green Florescent Protein" is about Max, a teen struggling to cope with several new situations. He recently moved to a new home in Westmont. His mother, a wacky, sober ex-drunk who talks to his father's cremated remains (which are housed inside a curling stone), deciding to give herself a "life overhaul." He also is struggling with a new feeling of attraction that goes past friendship with his closest friend, Ruby-Doo.
"The B9ers" - What happens when a survivor of a benign tumor starts a support group for others in the same situation? The B9ers captures the struggle of a group of people trying to return to normal life after a close call. They don't get the support and sympathy they need, since their tumors were not malignant, but still struggle along after surgery.
"Bang Crunch" - Is a look into the life of a girl with Fred Hoyle's syndrome, which ages her a year a day.
"Scrapbook" - Amy and her boyfriend struggle with the attack on a University German class that ends with the death of eight women. He was one of the survivors of the attack. This story delves into the "what ifs"? Why did this happen? The story also delves into the emotions of guilt and anxiety of being a survivor.
Armchair Interviews says: A debut short-story author to read and be encouraged to write more.