Nasty, Short And Brutal
Misfits, prostitutes, sly Lotharios, and ne’er-do-wells inhabit Nemiroff’s narratives. He writes with a stark voice, with imagery as bleak as it is minimal. Canada here appears grim and ramshackle, a place where the forgotten roam along invisible borders, scarcely noticing the other side. But it’s in his characters’ skulls where Nemiroff writes best. Whether they’re the hidden thoughts of a jealous has-been at an improv festival (“The Age of Improv”), or a monstrous patron of a strip bar (“The Fat Gynecologist”), or a remorseful hustler with a penchant for one type of woman (“Fat Blonde Chicks”), Nemiroff uncovers them as if he were opening a jar, with a deftness and surety no doubt brought over from his background in fringe theatre
Many of the stories play with readers’ expectations and end with a bitter, but not always effective, twist. “A Master of the Fecal Arts,” a story about a frustrated painter who discovers inspiration literally in his own excrement, finishes with a whimper of a punchline. Most of the other stories fare better. The gem of the collection is “The Wagoneers,” a complex, well-paced narrative about a shy Jehovah’s Witness and her chance encounter with a womanizing Mormon.
Short, Nasty and Brutal is a disarming read. It has no Dickensian reversals of fortune, nor any particularly poignant illuminations. The book’s charm lies in the breadth of its characters-memorable not only for their cruelties, but also for the gossamer hint of humanity they each reveal. mRb