JULY 2005

> A REVIEW OF CARSWELL'S BARNEY'S CREW (2005) | jason jordan

Sean Carswell, a veteran of the literary scene, returns with his latest work in Barney's Crew (Gorsky Press, 2005). As I implied, Carswell is no stranger to book writing, and this full-length novel is a collection of well-rounded, short stories. Undoubtedly, the book has its merits, but sadly it also has its fair share of shortcomings, though the latter really aren't powerful enough to pose a threat.

What the author does well is construct believable stories. Whether it's the vivid details in "The Last Days at Fulton County Stadium," in which the narrator reiterates his hatred for his hometown, baseball team, or "Framing Invasion," in which a construction worker attacks a car lot as a result of hearing their jingle on the radio day after day, Carswell easily conveys authenticity. Though the "Acknowledgements" page explicitly states that all increments in Barney's Crew are fiction, a few particular pieces seem overly rooted in nonfiction. And, that's all right.

What the author doesn't do so well comprises a smaller list that appears trite when surveying the finished whole. However, weaknesses are pertinent also. Thus, Carswell has a penchant for going off on tangents at any time. As is the case with most tangents, the aforementioned become very distracting like that one time when I kept describing the furniture in one of the stories I wrote. There weren't any characters, and the furniture began to interact with one another a la Beauty & the Beast, and so they became the characters. That was distracting, huh? Anyhow, in addition, I noticed that the stories housed within Barney's Crew all opt for resolution to resonance, as far as the endings are concerned. No matter how dire the situation is, the plot is thoroughly resolved by the end, and leaves no room for the imagination.

Despite the flaws, Carswell is a wondrous author, and his material shines when read out loud. Admittedly, the cover art and book dimensions do make the novel look as if it's geared towards the young adult crowd, but it's a worthwhile read for all age groups. Don't ignore the Achilles' heels of Barney's Crew: take them in stride and settle in for an amusing romp.

> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

Jason Jordan is many things. He is staff reviewer for this magazine. He is the host of the BEAN STREET READING SERIES. He is an editor of The IUS Review. He has been a featured writer at the Tuesday Night Reading Series in Evansville, Indiana. His writing appears in THE EDWARD SOCIETY and THE2NDHAND. He is a writer.