Small is Beautiful: Hunters and Gamblers by Ryan Ridge
Indeed, once begun is half done, and in a good way. Short, funny, smart and wildly imaginative are my favorite adjectives as regards prose generally, and Ridge delivers. Which is to say that the Bibliofella often feels he is required to read some books, for his own good, but gets genuinely excited reading done for fun and joy, sneaking back to, just now, Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here and, yes, Hunters and Gamblers, whose title riffs on the calculating, flawed, absurd anthopology of our dying republic and whose spirit would make Lewis chuckle.
Ryan Ridge, American fabulist
These are solid and eccentric voice-driven nutty narrator pieces, all with so much back story, history and narrative that you might imagine there exists a whole other novel in or out of these concentrated tales of Aesop-like moral instruction, where characters involve themselves in other conversations, situation, dramas just off the page. Such is the power and holism of dream, and of a singular voice, with wit aplenty, a la Donald Barthelme, my own mentor Jim Krusoe, Stanley Crawford, Richard Brautigan, to whom all you might favorably compare Mr. Ryan Ridge, if that is his real name. I mean to say that it sounds like an imaginary surreal place you might find in the author's own magnetic dreamworld of the American idiomatic landscape of deserts and highways and churches and prison, with the Western themes and cowboy dialectic of irony, violence, humor and character like, maybe Cliff Cliff or Rudy Vallee, punny and echoing, as if somebody is falling, falling forever down into the gully, pardner. Re cowboy think Will Rogers
The other Mr. Rogers
There's a blind artist painting about about faith, a mega-church with a GodDome and a skybox, a secret which needs burying, love lost and, throughout, the winning Zippy the Pinhead or Tom Tomorrow send-up of brand names and the jargon of lowest common denominator dialogue that seems to have drowned real discourse in the US of A. There is a battle between North and South California, a taxidermy love story, shakedown artist Girl Scouts. Throughout the kooky-wise sage tells us, darkly, sarcastically, what we are experiencing, which is in-flight turbulence on our way to the crash, as in the short-short "Turbulence": "It was the best of times, it was the Patty Hearst of times" and "like so many of my fellow countrymen I lost nearly everything, yet still managed to gain weight, I was just another slob struggling to make rent on a shotgun house in the part of town criminals moved away from--in short, the period was exactly like most historical periods, that is to say, it was not unlike flying into Denver International Airport in the rain."
If you appreciate giggling smugly a subversive activity, and laughing out loud in anti-social giddy joyful gratitude, this is the book for you. And if you don't this is really the book for you. Ridge's less-is-more ethos makes it easy to participate, and still feel pain. And empathy, too, to join the suspension of disbelief, or of belief, to pick up the surreal and see that it is also urgent political commentary, critical thinking-out-loud, and to be surprised by that. Surprise, finally, arrives on every page of this perfect little book.
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