Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir (TriQuarterly Books, 2005) is the best that Joe Meno has to offer. His previous novel, Hairstyles of the Damned (Punk Planet Books, 2004), was great. It's been reviewed for this website, and you can peruse the ARCHIVES for proof. Arguably, this collection of short stories upstages everything he's ever thrust into the public arena. For those of you who are financially strapped, though, this is a hardback book, so it follows that it's more expensive than its paperback counterpart. But wait: there isn't a paperback counterpart! Aside from that strange fact, this is quintessential Meno and there's a certain panache here that isn't present in his novels.

Whether you think so or not, the compendium looks spectacular. The dust jacket is painted with style, the book itself appears suave, and the layout is well organized and easy on the eyes. Structurally Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir is comprised of seventeen stories, which run upwards of 180 pages total, and thematically the stories are as varied as one would expect. I prefer "I'll Be Your Sailor," "Women I Have Made Cry," and "Astronaut of the Year" to their companions, but a few of the stories within the book first appeared elsewhere. Naturally, as is the case with almost any compilation, some of the entries are too brief, and seem like they should've been fleshed out a tad more. Still, Meno has an undeniable knack for the short story.

On a different note, I was seldom enraptured with any of the stories' titles, plus come to think of it, Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir as a title tastes dry to me as well. However, the content is what matters most, and this particular outing has intriguing content in droves. Meno's other works [Hairstyles of the Damned, How the Hula Girl Sings (Akashic Books , 2005), et al] are worthwhile, too, but for some reason this one trumps them all. Tis the Christmas season; splurge a little and pick up the latest from this Chicagoan. If you're a fan of his prior efforts, then you'll be completely satiated.

> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

Jason Jordan is many things. He is staff reviewer for this magazine. He was the host of the BEAN STREET READING SERIES. He was 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. In the Fall of 2005, he went on a seven-week book tour promoting his forthcoming novel, Powering The Devil's Circus. He is a writer.