Mícheál McCann is a postgraduate student from Queen’s University of Belfast. His poems have appeared in The Open Ear and Demand Change; some of his poems are being set to music by the choral composer Shane Lynch for the City of Derry International Choir Festival.
On The Amazing Mr. Morality by Jacob M. Appel
A peculiar set of stories present themselves in The Amazing Mr. Morality by Jacob M. Appel. From the frankly horrifying ‘The Children’s Lottery’ to the titular story that concludes this collection, there is an uncanniness infringing on each of these pieces that is never quite observed or named but pervades the tone of each of these unique stories.
‘The Children’s Lottery’ opens the book. To what intended effect I am unsure. The story teeters to and fro between an oppressively uncomfortable reality and a world in which this horror has been accepted and repressed into simplistic, passive language. A particular scene has the narrator’s husband first discuss paedophile camps, for which children are selected and ferried to for “collective use” (my heart sank here, as did my desire to continue), all while draining pasta in a colander. This casual language jars incredibly against the profound horror of this dystopian world: the narrator describes the harmony of “the joyous murmur of children” rising like music. There is clear reference being made to ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson. Were Appel’s story to be published in 1948, as Jackson’s was, similar furious outcries would, no doubt, come from the woodwork. A by-product of the world of passivity he creates, but (perhaps his intention) there is less of an emotional broil in this story than Jackson’s, which, arguably, given the events that occur, is a conclusion to draw in itself.
Some of these stories sparkle. Others pulse with a dark energy and wit. The writer has a strong grip over the tonal applications of his words, where he allows sympathies and where he allows horrors.
Without doubt, Appel’s long line of publications have allowed him to form a concise, apt and needle-point style when it comes to writing the short story. He boasts a prose style that is plain and yet can maintain narrative secrecy at will. Some of these stories are incredibly suspenseful. Pertinent to finish on Ted Grossbard, a character from the concluding story. The character’s advice column is an appropriate, circular way to thread the writer’s concerns into the tapestry of this collection. The idea of a simple fix to a gargantuan social and personal problem feeds into so many of these stories, as it feeds into the complexity of our dealings with the world around us.
The Amazing Mr. Morality
Jacob M. Appel
(Vandalia Press, 2018)
© 2018 Micheal McCann