Lawrence Schimel’s Fairy Tales for Writers/Charles Ardai’s The Good-Neighbor Policy: A Double-Cross in Double Dactyls

We are very fond of small presses here at Green Man Review, not least because they publish some of the most interesting things out there. Several years ago, A Midsummer Night’s Press was revived after a fairly lengthy hiatus. The press focuses on poetry, and we were happy to be able to take a look at the first two offerings, Lawrence Schimel’s Fairy Tales for Writers and Charles Ardai’s The Good-Neighbor Policy.

schimel-fairy talesLawrence Schimel’s Fairy Tales for Writers is a short collection of traditional tales transplanted into the world of writing and publishing. As a poetic treatment of the told-again fairy tale it more than holds its own, with the added bonus of some wry and sometimes acidic humor. The characters drawn are all too familiar — the Wicked Queen from Snow White who runs a writers’ workshop; the young Ugly Duckling in a family that simply has no time for his imperatives, until at last he discovers a world in which words are, indeed, things of beauty; and any number of agents and publishers in sheeps’ clothing.

It’s not all gloom — there are touches of mercy, acts of simple kindness, those who still think there is room for art that doesn’t sell (sounds like a small press to me) that provide some happy moments. I’m quite taken with this one — for a poetry junky like yours truly, this is a wonderful little chapbook, nothing radical, just good solid verse with a firm lock on what fairy tales are about.

ardai-good neighbor policyCharles Ardai’s The Good-Neighbor Policy is something different. One wants it to be a murder mystery, but it’s not, except on the surface. A morality tale perhaps, of the darker variety — a gang shootout, the only survivor the wife of the couple under the federal Witness Protection Program, attacked at home by hit men who become victims themselves, all witnessed by a lonely neighbor who couldn’t see the key events. The question is, who killed who?

I can’t say I’m so happy with this one, if only because it becomes a morality tale rather than a mystery. Because of that there’s little real tension, few surprises, and, although entertaining enough, the story is a foregone conclusion from fairly early on. There’s a way it has to turn out, and it does so just that way. This is not to say I have serious objections — it’s an entertaining enough piece, and as Henry Kuttner said (to paraphrase), if you’re not going to entertain people, everything else is wasted.

So, a creditable renascence for A Midsummer Night’s Press: obviously, a press to watch out for.

(Both from A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2007)

Robert

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there. You may e-mail him, but include a reference to Green Man Review so you don’t get deleted with the spam.

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