by Benjamin Weissman, reading at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside, Monday March 8, 7:30 pm
Benjamin Weissman's collection of short stories, Headless, does with words what Robt. Williams does with images. Weissman is an accomplished writer who shifts easily from style to style, smoothly conveying his intended effect without impedance from a particular idea's embroiled headwaters. This outpouring of wild description is at once plain, funny, silly, pornographic, violent, and serious.
The dreamlike stories in Headless all have a wonderful comedic aspect to them, whether it's an examination of Adolf Hitler's skiing hang-ups in "Hitler Ski Story," or one of several first-person psycho murderer jaunts. There is so much to absorb and the angles so numerous, that at times the form is as humorous as the already funny story.
Of particular merit is "Wicked Maid Churning Butter," in which Weissman takes us into the life of a man who gets an operation to become a bear. The first thing the "man" does after the procedure is drive to the Redwood forest to find "the biggest hairiest bitch-bear the world has ever known." The result of this encounter returns you, disturbingly, to the title of the story.
While Weissman's forte seems to be humor-cum-dreamstate, Headless also touches on events that externalize the personal horror of loss, as in the painful "Marnie." Weissman also meditates culturally on being Jewish. He couples this speculation with intellectual revenge as in the aforementioned "Hitler Ski Story" and in the Klan-laden "Centipede." Weissman's serious side serves to strengthen the cohesiveness of Headless, adding a cynical skeleton to the body of work.
Headless walks with a masculine swagger that can at times be a little overwhelming. This is not to say that any of the locker room talk is overly misogynistic. After all, how can it be when the locker room is populated by the likes of Kafka-esque bears and beautiful gay loggers? The effect is one of a filthy joke told with the freewheeling smirk of an over-sexed leprechaun. Like his previous work, Dear Dead Person, Weissman's Headless entertains, startles, enlightens, and damages the reader, leaving an aching side and an appetite for more. LANCE CHESS