Staff Book Reviewer Jessica Maybury is a recent graduate of the MA in Writing programme from NUI, Galway, Ireland. Her work has appeared in Nth Word, Word Riot and Prick of the Spindle, among other places. Her Web site is jmaybury.blogspot.com.
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Is Jeff Parker, the author of Ovenman, a busy man? Of course. He juggles tongue tips, roadkill, Russians, foreign bodies, briefcases, toppling Jenga® towers and swallowed pennies, among many other things that are turning too fast to see. Like a seasoned circus sideshow, he never falters, always looking up at his stories as they spin through the air, hands a blur, face serious, set, intent.
The Taste of Penny is the result, as he says himself, of years of story writing and living, and the dedication and experience shows. Each story is honed to a whiplash, without an extra ounce of emotional weight, to borrow from Heaney. His style is sharp and unforgiving, each description of character or nuance of voice explored until only the essentials remain.
His narrative voice is typical of what can be expected in contemporary American writing, yet it never seems staid with Parker. As a non-American, I have been observing the trends of the American market, and this frank, no-nonsense tone speaks of freshness and an alertness to all the small gradations of daily life that is characteristic in American prose at this moment in time. Gone is the minimalism of Hemingway and his cohorts, or the posing indifference of the early Bret Easton Ellis. Instead, in this collection of stories we are gifted with a lushness of human experience that is at once a signifier of all that is happening in America, yet is also particularly specific to Parker. I doubt that anybody can do what he’s doing with this collection. It has ties to Charles Dickens, to George Eliot, to A. M. Homes and Aimee Bender.
Should you read this collection and wish you’d written it yourself? Absolutely.
Official Jeff Parker Web Site
Official Dzanc Books Web Site