On the relationship between a work and its title, short-story writer and essayist Charles D’Ambrosio has written, “Entitling a poem or story or essay is harder than naming a child. The privilege of place is almost like a law of primogeniture, with the title inheriting the entire work, and along with that legacy comes the burden, the implied promise, of carrying the weight of the piece to the end.” If the title of Mike Spry’s first short-story collection, Distillery Songs, makes a promise, it’s the promise to give a rich and varied ode to the kind of stories that emerge from nights (and, in this collection, lifetimes) spent drinking.
The stories are tight, economical, and each sentence has been nursed and carefully crafted. Spry has an ear for slang and tone; whether it’s a demented orderly or a young woman at rehab, he gets it right. His writing lets the reader get close to the characters – you may even find yourself hoping everything works out for the guy who explains, “Okay, there’s a goddamn dead hooker named Crystal or Shelley or Raven or something duct taped to my couch and it’s one twenty-four in the afternoon and my notoriously punctual parents will be here for dinner at five-thirty … ” Spry keeps his title’s promise, and delivers ten snappy venerations for the sordid side of life. mRb