By Lynette G. Esposito
The eight short stories in Jacob Appel’s Liars’ Asylum are amazingly fun to read. The 168 page collection, published by Black Lawrence Press, explores common every day experiences with life twists that both surprise and confirm the human condition.
Appel is a keen observer of people interacting with their life situations. John Jodzio, author of Knockout, comments, ”I am in absolute awe of Jacob Appel’s Liars’ Asylum. The stories here are magnetic and knowing, funny and inventive. Appel is a master of form—deftly able to conjure up pitch perfect characters whose lips spill out both truth and wit.” I agree.
In the story when Love Was an Angel’s Kidney on page 120, Appel narrates the story of a young eighth grader fascinated with a high school athlete who comes to her father’s camp for youth who need dialysis. The story, in true beginning, middle and end short story form, shows how love can happen and end anywhere. While the young girl would give up a kidney for her innocent love when she is skinny dipping with him in the camp lake, her financially inept father is losing the camp to the bank and his wife to his best friend. Her father never finds another woman for whom he would sacrifice an organ, but she wonders about her young love and if he still thinks of her. She asks: Am I what remains when an angel’s kidney evaporates in the past? This is an interesting concept when looking at love itself as it fades into the past but remains in the heart.
In Good Enough for Guppies, the story opens with Divorce infected the air last summer and Appel sets the scene for old women (78) seeking love in a variety of places all told from a candid observer who once in awhile participates in the story by suggesting the relationship he has with his own wife. The narrator, Gene, and his wife, Shelia, must deal with Shelia’s mother, 78, marrying a man in his forties with a Bronx accent. Shelia is almost hysterical because it is her mother and Gene attempts to understand survivorship in a long-term marriage. The story suggests and shows average people reacting to love at various stages in their life and how they react as well as judge others outside and inside the family.
Appel is a master of unique and inventive story lines that are well controlled, developed and meaningful. He sets clear scenes with unique twists that help the reader see and understand the characters in more than one perception and in more than one dimension. I enjoyed every story.
The book is available here: https://www.blacklawrence.com/the-liars-asylum/
Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University. Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences. She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.
Fiction: Big Headed Anna Imagines Herself by Stephanie E. Dickinson – Alien Buddha Press
Poetry: Getting to Philadelphia- New and Selected Poems by Thomas Devaney- Hanging Loose Press
Poetry: Josephine Baker Swimming Pool by Tim Suermondt – MadHat Press
Poetry: Your Daughter’s Country by John Dorsey – Blue Horse Press
Poetry: Fake Lies by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright- Fell Swoop
Anthology: Humanity Edited by Eileen Tabios – Paloma Press
Poetry: One, Two, Three – Selected Hay(na)ku Poems by Eileen R. Tabios. (Paloma Press)
Poetry: Take Out Delivery by Paul Siegell. ( Spyten Duyvil Press )
Novel: Mourning by Eduardo Halfon – Translated by Lisa Dillman and Daniel Hahn. (Bellevue Literary Press)
*Books no longer appearing on this list have been reviewed, were sent out for possible review. Those not picked up have been donated to local charitable thrift shops.
By Jacob M. Appel
Black Lawrence Press – 2016
Review by g emil reutter
Jacob Appel is an observer of life and family. This collection of short stories captures the internal dynamics of family or what we believe family is. He brings to us the intimacy of sibling rivalry, parental impact, of betrayal with a set of unique characters set in bizarre circumstances and the everyday.
In the story, The Butcher’s Music, Appel sets the tone for this compelling collection of stories. We are introduced to two sisters, one a butcher the other a professional musician who plays a Tecchler cello. In the end Appel leaves us to decide who the butcher is and who is not. In Boundaries he brings us to a remote Customs Station on the Vermont and Canadian border on Christmas. The two agents are snowed in preparing a holiday dinner for the evening and ready to watch It’s A Wonderful Life for entertainment. In this story Appel captures the intimacy between the two agents who are yet to be romantically involved and how their evening is interrupted by a young woman who approaches their station to enter the United States when they discover her skin is covered in a sheaf of pustules. The tension in the story rises as they have to take her in the station and are exposed to her illness. Appel captures the media obsession and irresponsibility with a story that may not be what it is and the reports on cable news.
Coulrophobia & Fata Morgana is at times dark, at times humorous. Appel’s development of characters in these short stories is simply outstanding and compelling. As one turns the page from one story to the next an unexpected adventure awaits the reader.
You can find the book here: http://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781625579539/coulrophobia–fata-morgana.aspx
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at:https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/