Typewriter for a Superior Alphabet, Stories from the Archive of Lost Possibilities by Robert P Kaye
alice blue books, 2013
Reviewed by Julie Demoff-Larson
Typewriter for a Superior Alphabet, Stories from the Archive of Lost Possibilities by Robert P. Kaye is a beautiful handcrafted chapbook published under the alice blue books imprint series Shotgun Wedding. Kaye’s short fiction collection includes stories written as letters, Q/A, reports, and essay that are highly imaginative, and at times, a statement on the state of society. Kaye offers eight stories in TfaSA that combine intelligence with a working class perspective. Readers can easily identify with his characters and scenarios without feeling the work is out of their reach.
Kaye’s stories have a nice balance between plot and character, with the driving force moving each piece being somewhere between humor and personal reflection. What I mean by personal reflection is that there is a human quality to Kaye’s work that is relatable. For example, in “A Note from the Institute of Underground Studies” we are reminded how fragile the relationship is between big business and the working stiff. Kaye reflects on the barriers between here and there, the us and them, and the underbelly of the forgotten. In the following passage we find a man on the brink of losing everything and for the first time realizes a subculture exists.
“The man who stepped from behind the wall caught my gaze and strolled across the room, a fist full of keys chiming at his belt. The miasma of mold and earth that accompanied him reminded me that this subbasement constituted part of our underground past, created when slag and sawdust filled the tide flats, submerging the old city below modern street level.”
Noting the complexities and poetic verse as greater themes emerge, halting my reading to reflect (a true indication of something special). The story is not just about homelessness, a larger subtext is going on here: the corporate mindset, the stress, the overworking and too little vacation. Kaye touches on this theme throughout the collection, sometimes subtly, and sometimes directly as in “The Wisdom of Clouds.”
“young me worked even faster inflating the next bubble, the company poised to leapfrog into integrated infrasomething, accelerating workflow across a global whatever. photovoltaic glass replaced transparent windows, opaque to blot out distraction…they repealed weekends and vacations and human interaction—yes, even weekends.”
And that about sums that up!
Glorious over the top scenarios in both “Typewriter for a Superior Alphabet” and “Seeing Eye Cat” demonstrate Kaye’s panache for storytelling. He doesn’t give too much away at the start and makes the reader work for meaning through descriptive narrative and clever dialogue. Although some of the forms he uses (letter, school essay, Q/A) have been seen elsewhere, Kaye is adept at making each story unique.
Typewriter for a Superior Alphabet, Stories from the Archive of Lost Possibilities is quality writing and entertaining to the max. And you can buy this handcrafted chapbook from alice blue books for a mere five bucks. I highly recommend getting a copy for that steal of a deal.