Sunday, January 13, 2008

Murder, Cocaine, Bestiality, Barenaked Ladies, Free Beer and Chicken, and Porno Girls

When I was in college, a band named Free Beer and Chicken was a staple on our teeny-tiny bar circuit (there were three in town that consistently featured live music). It didn't exactly take me in the first time I saw their flier -- I wondered at first whether they meant free chicken wings, or what, then looked more closely at the flier. It did get my attention, though, and I'm sure that many of their crowd that night consisted of broke hippies craving wings (good thing they were a jam band).

Merin Wexler must've been a fan, for her book of short stories is titled The Porno Girl. This time, unfortunately, I was more gullible. I checked it out and took it home and even got most of the way through, more out of boredom than anything else. But it wasn't very good. It wasn't even very naughty. The problem with her stories is that they weren't developed enough. If you've ever written a short story, you'll know that sometimes the idea starts off something like: "I think I'll write a short story about a new mother who finds solace in the local XXX theater." When you sit down and write the thing, though, it's supposed to go further than that. Most of these stories don't. There's the one about the teenaged girl whose friend is trying to help a stranger save her marriage, while the girl's parents' own marriage is falling apart. There's the one about the pregnant newlywed who meets up with her ex-boyfriend again and manages to resist his dubious charms. There's the one about the yuppie who is having another baby so that her nanny will stay.

Only two really stuck with me: "The Closet" and "Helen of Alexandria." The first is about a young girl whose father is manic, and shows up in a sailor hat and rented Hummer, with a bullhorn and a redhead. Like the others, it doesn't yield too much more in execution than in concept, but it's paced well, the characters feel three-dimensional, and it offers something a little more riveting than a collapsing marriage or ambivalent mother. The second is about a teacher at a private girls' school, locked in a battle of wills with a Rate-Your-Students-worthy snowflake. This one had a little more complexity as it also featured a subplot about the teacher trying to find love, and the devastation the teacher felt as the two subplots collided in a way that I'm sure features prominently in the worst nightmares of those who teach.

The rest of them didn't really make me feel anything. I started this book on Friday night and already I can't remember most of them. If only the author had put as much effort into grabby stories as she did into a grabby title.