One Dead Tree
by David Menear
review by Mark McCawley
One Dead Tree
by David Menear
DevilHousePress, an imprint of AngelHousePress
7×8.5, 28pp, $10.00 (CAD)
published, June 2014, Limited Edition
DevilHousePress is a new imprint of AngelHousePress — an Ottawa-based micro-press founded and published by poet and writer, Amanda Earl, in 2007 — that publishes transgressive literary works in the form of short story collections, novellas, novel excerpts, flash fiction, one-act plays and creative nonfiction in limited edition chapbooks. The DevilHousePress imprint’s inaugural publication is David Menear’s chapbook, One Dead Tree, consisting of eight individual works of short fiction, flash fiction, and prose poem/flash fiction hybrids.
The title piece, “One Dead Tree”, combines elements of flash fiction and the prose poem about a Montreal bar, ‘The Crossroads’, situated between wealthy Westmount and the “largely lower-middle-class district of Notre-Dame-De-Grace (NDG)”. It conveys the work’s central allegory in which ‘one dead tree’ works as a blatant metaphor “where if you sit on the patio with a beer and a cigarette” it looms “directly in front of you” as a “dark omen of what lies within [the bar].” (p.1, Menear)
The short fictions “River Water” and “Picasso in Prison” are linked stories from the point of view of a preadolescent boy named Davey, concerning his divorced mother, and her married alcoholic lover Bob who winds up killing his wife in a drunken rage. These two stories focus primarily on coming-of-age male sexuality of a boy desperate for male role models, any male role models, even a violent, drunken one.
The “Devil’s Dirty Laundry” is a work of short, fabulist fiction in which fantasy and reality mix. “Ruined by the tender cruel tragedy of a child’s innocence suffocated.” (p.11, Menear)
“Fern Leaves Unfurling in the Dark-Green Shade” is a story told from the point of view of an apartment building superintendent in “a ‘government assisted’ low-income high-rise rental accommodation deep in the largely unpopulated hinterland of suburban Toronto” (p.14, Menear) where he discovers various discarded hardcore porn magazines “thrown away down the chute into the building’s garbage room where I…heave it up into the inferno of the furnace where an appetite for chocolate or creepiness is converted and disguised as black and grey ash.” (p.13, Menear)
It’s weird, alarming, chilling and it’s troubling…Turn a few crumply pages on and its a possibly pretty girl on a wooden bench in a barn with her mouth wrapped around a massive horse cock. Her mouth is forced wide open deformed like she’s having some serious dental work done. She’s looking at me all gleeful and proud. We don’t see the face of the horse. The next page she’s splattered with cum. It covers her face and she’s rubbing it all around her huge tits. Again, she smiles back at me lustily licking her lips. Jesus.
“My Kick in the Nuts from Karma” is a story about obsessional love and desire and the ultimate infidelity to which it sometimes leads. The male protagonist “hooks his girlfriend up with yet another job, with yet another friend working for the summer up north at a theatre camp for messed-up native kids.” (p.19, Menear). When he goes to visit, he could “read her face right away that something was wrong.” (p.19, Menear)
‘It was only a couple of guys!’ ‘Tom?’ ‘No, The students. I only let one guy actually fuck me. I just sort of sucked the other two off.’ ‘Sort of?’ I knew this day would come, and that I had it coming for what I had done to Laura all those years ago. This is my kick in the nuts from karma.
“Flatline” is a flash fiction in which Menear’s broken characters find solace in each others addictions (his, sex addiction; hers, drug addiction) and fleeting acceptance and tenderness on a cold, frozen night in Montreal’s Westmount.
“Cookie Tin” explores the sexuality of the aging sixtysomething male, wondering “how did he go so swiftly and suddenly from the hippy ‘free love’ of the 60’s to paying for sex in his 60’s?” (p.23, Menear)
In these tight, sexy fictions that make up One Dead Tree, David Menear’s stories and characters uncover hitherto unexplored aspects of the Canadian urban experience. Kudos to Amanda Earl for bringing these transgressive stories to print under the DevilHouse imprint. UG
David Menear has spent most of his life between Toronto and Montreal, but has also lived in London, U.K. & Divonne, France. He studied in NYC at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) located in Manhattan. Currently he is back in Toronto at ‘The Beach’ writing hard and playing tennis with equal enthusiasm and mediocrity. His short stories have been published in ‘QWF/Carte Blanche’ & ‘The Danforth Review’. Short story Chapbook, One Dead Tree, with ‘DevilHouse Press’ published in June 2014. Poetry included in ‘The Toronto Star’, ‘The International Nelson Mandela Tribute Anthology’ & ‘Ditch’.