Friday, February 16, 2018

Book Review: 'Youth in the City' by Chris Jalufka

California author Chris Jalufka makes his literary debut with this fascinating collection of short stories YOUTH IN THE CITY. More biographical information than that may surface in time, but for now we can recognize from his short comments that he owns a mind that is set to take chances.

This book of short stories is truly experimental literature – and it is refreshing to read work that is this unique, challenging our manner of thinking, asking us to relinquish credibility or the attempt to tie everything together into a cohesive whole. Some readers may get lost too early in settling in with this book, but others will become excited not only with the strange tales offered by a multitude of narrators over a couple pages until we bump into the next observer of mankind and scoop us up in another strange encounter.

Throughout the book Chris offers little asides, usually set in italics, as though he as the author is commenting on the people and the conditions of mankind that continue to appear in his odd tales. Some examples follow: “We are seen as the waste of all the empty days, us drifters, pockets full of waded dollars and bus transfers. No one may like us, but they all want to be us." And another more extended one, "Mothers don’t do well with being ignored. Something we all learn rather slowly. The lesson is paid for in long and useless phone calls where the mother rants and you stay put, quietly fuming, pacing a parking lot. Perhaps there are flower delivery costs until the mother is appeased, for now. Really, the only fun of the relationship is in hearing the mock sacrifice of parenting and its direct likeness to subduing a mythic beast. A child’s kiss is really just a Golden Fleece. I don’t know why anyone would want a mother, they seem to do more harm than good.” Or, “If you’re lucky enough to be drunk when you fall asleep, the sky giants grant you magnificent dreams.”

Stay with Chris throughout this book, either in small or large portions, and discover how inventive the English language can be in the hands of a man with this kind of unique talent. Once you get the concept of what he is doing (if you do) then re-read some of the stories and see how much alienated and isolated wisdom is here. He is on to something fresh. Grady Harp, February 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.