Blot Lit Reviews: How to Carry Bigfoot Home by Chris Tarry
How to Carry Bigfoot Home, Chris Tarry
Red Hen Press, 2015
Reviewed by Kayla Greenwell
Anyone who has seen my Sailor Moon memorabilia knows I am all about girl power. So, I was a little daunted when I picked up How to Carry Bigfoot Home, Chris Tarry’s collection about maleness. And I did struggle with it—but the more I read the more Tarry’s short stories dragged me into his complicated and dismal worlds.
Tarry’s stories are dark. They create hopeless pictures of domestic and married life. The men involved are usually trying to escape, and the women are just as mean spirited and eager to leave—but instead of falling into the “women, am I right, fellas?” stereotype, he uses those social expectations to openly comment on their destructive capabilities.
Sometimes, he makes his point through humor and satire. A piece simply titled “ The Instructions” is a 31-step set of instructions for setting up the RENEGADE R-6 9000X, which I am sure is supposed to be a play on home workout sets like P90x and BOWFLEX. However, the instructions get more and more specific and ridiculous as the reader goes through the steps—and although it doesn’t end happily, I found myself laughing at the dark humor.
Sometimes he uses his characters to flesh out and take a harsh look into the darker side of domestic roles. They may seem simple at first, but are in truth very aware of themselves and are wholly capable of change—or are at least aware that they should, but can’t or won’t. We see this in “He’s Funny That Way,” a piece about two people whose marriage is falling apart. The husband, Brian, finds himself looking into a mirror thinking:
“It was hard for Brian to pin down the exact point everything changed. The moment he had the realization that he was becoming this person, the man standing in front of the bathroom mirror, no longer able to love, selfish and happy about it.”
Meanwhile, his wife Stephanie is in the kitchen making coffee thinking:
“She was unsure when she changed…The “Goddamn it, Brian’s,” and the imperceptible pull-aways when he reacted out to touch her. Small instances. Passing each other in the kitchen, her body tightening when he moved in for a kiss.”
But of course, they never actually say these things to each other. Something that is too often a reality.
Tarry’s writing is fresh and compelling. If I was wary at first, I wasn’t for long. His stories are dark, but oddly humorous in their sarcasm or just straight up absurdity. Take this bit from “Lonely Fish,” for example.
“It was a human foot. She’d confirmed this with a rickety stretch from the edge of the lake and a poke-poke-poke with a long stick. It was floating in the fall-gray water and she had come upon it during her morning walk. She’d seen bottles in the lake before, tires, dead, birds, dead squirrels, lots of dead things indeed, but this was her first foot…So there was this foot in the lake, missing some of what made a foot a foot. In particular, a companion foot. The one defining characteristic what would surely turn such a find into feet, and then into legs, and then into a person, and God know what she would do then. Who knew what other parts were waiting to float by.”
How to Carry Bigfoot Home was a great start for Chris Tarry, and I look forward to reading more by him. What I really want to see him write is horror or straight up science-fiction. The personality in his writing, his witty humor, and his compelling characters seem to be a great fit for that kind of genre writing. Sometimes we go looking for monsters, and sometimes we are the monsters—something Tarry’s got down pat.