Nasty, Short and Brutal

By Faustus Salvador

A review of Nasty, Short And Brutal by Daniel Nemiroff

Published on May 1, 2006

Nasty, Short And Brutal
Daniel Nemiroff

Exile Editions
$23.95
paper
160pp
1-55096-609-X

At first, most readers may not identify with the short stories in Daniel Nemiroff’s debut collection. As the title promises, these are beastly little tales, with characters who are indeed brutal. Yet not one story strays too far from the quotidian–juxtaposed with the seediness and harrowing twists are snapshot depictions of envy and loneliness and, yes, love.

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

Faustus Salvador is a writer whose articles and fiction have been published in England, Japan, and across Canada.

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