Buy it now from TLA.com
I was one of Bob The Book’s biggest fans, and I was beyond honored to get a mention in David Pratt’s acceptance speech when he won the Lammy for it last year, so I was really looking forward to his latest, a collection of short stories called My Movie. After reading it, I can honestly say I’m more impressed with his work than ever.
Pratt’s greatest talent lies in creating totally insular, separate worlds that exist inside our own, then blurring their boundaries just enough so that we can peek inside, see what awaits us, then scurry back to our own safe spaces. Those worlds are dark, unrelentingly truthful places that we can only stay in long enough to find the answers we seek before we return to reality and try to apply what we’ve learned.
In Pratt’s hands, a New York City apartment bedroom in “Please Talk to Me, Please” becomes an arena for the dissolution of a relationship due to Brian’s inability to communicate his feelings and Greg’s inability to stop communicating his feelings. Pratt places no blame on either party but speaks the truth that relationships are interconnected episodes that sometimes require communication and other times demand silence.
An entirely different world awaits us in “Calvin Gets Sucked In,” a delightfully funny yet pointed piece in which Calvin literally gets consumed by a porn video—inhabiting the world of hot pizza delivery boys, hot pool boys and hot handymen all on interminably sunny days, where “being cool” is essential for existence. In “The Island,” the world is Jim and Roy’s temporary reprieve from Jim’s illness—except that it isn’t, really. It’s more of a reminder. One of the book’s blurbs calls this story a “depiction of exile,” but I have to disagree. I believe exile to be a part of it, but to me it’s more about moving beyond the death of a partner, as witnessed by the final paragraph after Jim’s death.
“Then you say so long, for now. You have a date Friday. And
it’s not bad. At home, later, you tell him about it. You hold your
pillow tight, but there will be another date. And nothing is
wiped away. Not completely. Life grows dimensions. And the
roar of the engine falls silent, the wash of waves dissipates,
and the million tiny pockets of air sent underneath by the
propellor’s churn rise to the surface and join the thin layer
between life and the question.”
Pratt is also familiar with the world of tricks, and there are two marvelous hookup stories here—“One Bedroom” and “The Addict”—but the hookup part is the only commonality. “One Bedroom” is a dark, disturbing piece that may be fantasy and may not. It may involve a murder and it may not. But it does feature defecation. And Scrabble. “The Addict” involves (naturally) a crack-addicted trick. Is it mutual attraction that brings these two men together? Or mutual self-loathing?
Although everything in this collection bears your attention, “Ulmus americana” and “The Snow Queen” also stood out to me. “Ulmus americana” is most like Bob the Book in that it anthropormorphizes trees rather than books. However, this story depicts a tree-couple (Ulmus and Urtic) in the twilight of their relationship as Ulmus becomes enamored of a young man who runs past them daily in the park, sending a crow to spy on him and bring back details of his life. When his illusions about the young man are shattered, Urtic is left to pick up the pieces. Knowing and wise, this is a hopeful gem.
“The Snow Queen,” which ends the book, is Pratt at his finest as he presents a tale of a young queer boy named Steven and the relationship he strikes up with rumored lesbian Jo Osbourne. Through cooking and cleaning and opera and all the rest they do together, Steven finds the courage to admit his difference to himself. But as he finds, being different comes with a price. Jo has paid hers. Is he willing to do the same?
David Pratt is an amazing writer, and this is a showcase of his varied talents—artistic but never pretentious, disturbing but never gratuitous, sentimental but never maudlin. Highly, highly recommended.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler