Books Are Pretty

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Months and Seasons.

The cover of Christopher Meeks’ collection of short stories sparked some interest in my household. The kids are so accustomed to seeing me with my nose in a book, they don’t pay any attention to what it is unless the cover is particularly compelling. In fact, the last book that caught their eye was What Do You Do All Day?, with the orange popsicle on the cover, and that was 3 years ago.

Months and Seasons, with its seductive cover of baby chicks, really got them going, and why not? One of my earliest memories is going to a pet store with my mother when I was three or so. It was around Easter, and the front of the store had a large pen filled with baby chicks, dyed in pastel purples, pinks, and blues. It was the most awesome thing in the history of ever, as far as I was concerned, and I joined the gaggle of small children pleading with their mothers to buy one – just one!

Unfortunately, our mothers were farsighted enough to see three weeks into the future, and the idea of a flock of grown chickens running amok in the suburbs was a bit too much to bear. I don’t think this is done anymore, and a good thing, too, because talk about an idea that looks good on paper but turns into a disaster in reality. I can only assume this trend was created by other live-in-the-moment three-year-olds.*

Back to the book, I’ve never seen a black baby chicken** before, but would you look at that attitude? Clearly, it has things on its mind it would like to have addressed.

Much to the disappointment of the kids, Months and Seasons does not dwell on the innermost thoughts of wee disgruntled fowl. Instead, the stories in the collection revolve around boring old grown-up stuff; relationships, mostly, with an L.A. flavor.

In the title story, a Best Boy looks for love at a movie wrap party, banking on superstition to bring him success with women, and meets a woman who seems just too good to be true.

In “Breaking Water,” a former swimsuit model is abandoned by her husband after she undergoes open heart surgery, and she must begin her life anew.

In other stories, such as “Dracula Slinks Into the Night,” and “The Farms at 93rd and Broadway,” Meeks deftly dissects the art of marriage, creating flawed, all-too-human characters that find happiness by choosing to trust each other in uncertain times.

In “Dracula,” analytical Hugh reluctantly attends a costume party with his cheerful, spontaneous wife Kathleen, and it takes a near-fatal accident to make him realize that in order for him to keep the woman he loves, he must learn to meet her in the middle.

In “The Farms,” and in “A Shoe Falls,” men contemplate the age old Ann Landers question, “Am I better off with her or without her?” In one story, the answer seems to be yes, in the other, it seems to be no, but Meeks lets the reader draw her own conclusions.

In his strongest story, “The Sun Is a Billiard Ball,” the lives of two separate families play out, crossing only briefly at the end. Meeks lets their lives slowly unfold around the reader, creating a world so real you can drop right inside.

“The Wind Just Right,” the sweetest story of the bunch, delves into the life of Tutti, a teenage girl who parallels “Dracula’s” Hugh by learning of the rewards that can come from flexibility, when she teaches a little girl how to swim.

Each story in Months and Seasons seems carefully written, each individual drawn in full and set in all the places you know by heart. Although no new ground is broken, it’s still pleasurable to spend some time on pleasant, familiar ground.


*Did you ever wonder how they dyed those chicks? A 2004 article from the BBC claims that dye is injected into the albumen of the egg, and the dye covers the outside of the developing chick, but doesn’t affect the inside. So when the chicks hatch, they are perfectly normal except they’re, you know, pink. I don’t know how they did it in 1973, but I assume it was done the same way.

**Originally, I had written “black chick,” but changed it to something more awkwardly phrased to avoid mockery and bad jokes.


Months and Seasons
by Christopher Meeks
April, 2008 by White Whisker Books
Paperback, 172pp
ISBN: 978-0-6151-8870-6

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