–A good book, maybe, but is it genre?

–Well, there’s a ghost in one story and a dream-vision in another.

–Do you know this guy? Did you get a free copy to review? What’s the deal here?

–Look, just bear with me on this one….

General Information

Title: Humane Society: Stories about tragedy and golf

Author: Jonathan Shute

Original Publication Date: 2002

ISBN: 0-9726345-0-9

Buy from: Amazon.com

Premise:

A boy dives for coke bottles, watches his brother get injured, witnesses the Christmas morning massacre of a poodle “with only two brain cells,” becomes a bartender, entertains regulars (some of whom wouldn’t be out of place at Callahan’s, and others who would receive the bum’s rush on sight), and receives a hearsay account of the afterlife.

Shute calls his collection “enhanced non-fiction.” To borrow a phrase, these stories are true– even the made-up parts.

High Points

1. You enjoy a book like Humane Society less for epiphanies and more for the language, the manner in which Shute transforms the everyday.

2. Am I a bad person because I laughed aloud when a “demonic little poodle named Muffin” met an “insane” St. Bernard?

Low Points:

The book on occasion veers into essay territory. This need not be a bad thing, but Shute sometimes tells us outright what we should already have gleaned from the narrative.

The Scores

Over the course of the twelve-minute trip to the Como Park Zoo she mentioned suicide more than a dozen times and murder twice. I found little comfort in the fact that she seemed six times more likely to take her own life as somebody else’s.
–”The Melancholy Monkey”

Originality: 4/6

Story: 4/6 Stories and vignettes to not always emphasize plot. I liked the fact that the collection had an overall shape.

Characterization: 5/6. The most significant characters remain in mind. I recall Janice and Fred, in particular, because they appear, vividly described, in exactly the kind of story that I usually dismiss after rolling my eyes a few times. Shute makes it work, and I’m not certain I want to know how far from the facts he may have wandered.

Imagery: 5/6 .

Emotional Response: 5/6 This varies. Some had me laughing out loud; a few left me cold. The best make the familiar new, which can be at least as difficult for a writer as making the new seem familiar. Often, it’s much more difficult.

Editing: 4/6.

Overall Score: 5/6.

In total, Humane Society receives 32/42