Blot Lit Reviews: Final Stanzas by Grant Tracey
Final Stanzas, Grant Tracey
Twelve Winters Press, 2015
Reviewed by Kelsie Plesac
There are certain works of fiction that require you to devour them in one sitting. You simply cannot sleep, eat, drink, talk, move until the words run out, and even then you crave more. Grant Tracey’s collection of short stories, Final Stanzas, falls into this category.
Each of the stories in Grant’s collection remarkably feels less like a story and more like a friend, a person you know. The characters are crafted with such care and intricate detail. They share your affinity for pop culture. They become your teachers, your classmates, your neighbors. Grant somehow completely acquaints the reader with each character and gifts each character with a depth that is tremendous in the confines of, at most, twenty-eight pages. They are completely alive and completely human with the common thread of wanting or expecting something more or something better.
This is most evident in Grant’s Jim Cagney (who appears in both Ossinising, 1918 and Faraway Girl), who before his acting days, was a catcher for the Yorkville Nut Club and had a difficult time balancing two sides of himself. “Jim wanted to stop fighting and rowing and making himself the big shot, but from the streets to the diamonds it seemed to follow him—the feisty little Irishman, the territorial tough guy. . . . His father noticed that Jim was favoring his left shoulder a little. It was sore, but what Jim was really sore at was not living up to what he expected of himself.”
Cagney, because he appears twice at two different ages, may be the most fascinating character as it comes to tracing the development of character, want, and expectation. When the reader meets Cagney again he is an actor who has returned home to help find Melissa, a friend from his past who has fled from her father. Jim’s wants and expectations have now expanded to include not only wanting better for himself but for Melissa as well. As Melissa tells of her troubling past with her father she and Jim share an embrace. “. . . but he had been unable to rescue her, and then she touched his lips again, quieting him, and they hugged, and when she started to cry that made Jim loathe his inability to shape and control the world, his, hers . . .”
Cagney is not the only character, however, with desires for something more. The pages of the collection are filled to the brim with complex characters like Johnny, who wants to give his marriage another chance; Jimmy Destri, who expects more from his father who abandoned him; Ryan, who expects more recognition from his filmmaking friend; Griffin, who wants lasting happiness for his younger brother; and John Dreyfuss, who wants better material for his television show. And these are just a sampling.
In all, Grant Tracey’s Final Stanzas, is a fabulous, detailed, living, and breathing collection in which the wants and expectations of each character drives fascinating, touching, beautiful, and satisfying stories. As a reader, what more could you want?