Looking at the table of contents and swiping at a few of the pages, I thought I could whip through these short stories in no time. Then I began to read them, and I soon realized how spare and fine Emilio Iasiello’s writing is, how clear and explosive the imagery. It was as if I were watching a movie rather than reading a book. Like Mozart who wasted no notes, Mr. Iasiello doesn’t waste words. And he weaves memorable stories with them. He creates moments in time that reveal the complexity of life.
WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO anthologizes stories of characters who are on the way down or already there; characters whose actions are extreme and inexplicable, characters who are drawn to addictive personalities; who are on the verge of self-destruction, but who cannot stop their fall. Their responses to life are bizarre, abrupt, befuddled. In their world, there’s lots of agony but little ecstasy.
In the title story, the narrator, drawn to the unfathomable personality of his alcoholic brother, relates an incident in a pawn shop.
See, my brother is prone to this type of violence. It follows him like a tail of toilet paper he can’t shake off his shoe. (“Why People Do What They Do,” loc. 242)
These are stories of violence, of choices that hint at cataclysmic consequences. They are filled with eccentric twists; they tell of drunken dinner parties.
In my favorite story, “Pretty Things,” there is a scene where Marla powders and rouges her dying mother’s face.
When she was finished, Marla stepped back to appraise her efforts. The pale complexion had been replaced with a healthy, albeit artificial, glow.
[A nurse comes into the room.]
“You do this?” the nurse asked, looking at the patient. “She looks good.” Marla shrugged. She wanted to tell this woman everything, but didn’t know where or how to begin. (“Pretty Things,” loc. 1293)
At the the end of the story, there is only a sad, wrenching demise.
This is not the stuff of light entertainment. It is the work of a major writer. I will keep returning to these stories and savoring the power of their beauty and perception, for that’s where the stories’ redemption lies.
If you look for a read that gives new and lasting insight into the human condition, if you long for wisdom, if you choose stories that are hard to stop reading, you will love WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO.
My Rating: 5 Stars
WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO is available on Amazon.
Emilio Iasiello authored the book Chasing the Green (published by FEP International in 2008). He has published short fiction and poetry in numerous academic and literary journals. His stories have appeared in Buffalo Spree Magazine, The Larcom Review, Oasis, and Krater Quarterly, and his poems have appeared in the New York Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, The California Quarterly, The Washington Review, and The Wilshire Review, among others.
An avid screenwriter, he has optioned several screenplays three of which have been produced into films: Saint Christopher (2002), P.J. (2008), and Chasing the Green (2009). Chasing the Green won the Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at the 2010 Canada International Film Festival and the Best Supporting Actress in a Feature Film Award at the 2009 Los Angeles Action on Film International Film Festival. P.J. received the Best Actress Award in the 2008 Miami Underground Film Festival. A fourth screenplay, Dead of Knight, is currently in post-production and expected to be completed later in 2010. His IMDB link is http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1045623/ Several of his short stories have been published in Writing Raw http://writingraw.com/bios.html .
Visit Emilio Iasiello’s page on Amazon and tune in tomorrow for an excerpt from “Pretty Things.”