Stephen Poleskie’s latest work of fiction Grater Life is a complex and original book. Written in what could probably be labeled the novel-in-stories format, it is neither a novel, nor a collection of stories. A more accurate description would be a “novel about stories.”
The book has three narrators; the patient, Janus; the visitor, John; and an omniscient narrator who sets the scene, and provides comment and background. In the event you think this might make for a difficult read, quite the opposite is true. This book readily flows along, carried forward by the author’s eloquent and descriptive prose style. The reader eagerly moves from story to story, each one introduced by a dialog between the patient and visitor. Poleskie writes with a rich and full vocabulary, in the manner of such European authors as Bruno Schulz and Witold Gombrowicz, and with the dark praise of obscurity and failure found in Fernando Pessoa.
The story plots themselves are complex and varied, with names like; Scamming, The King of Jingles, A Six Veil Dance, and Whoopee Loot Bag. The stories are told over twelve months, in twelve chapters, and with a final chapter identified only by an ampersand. As they are revealed the stories provide us with an understanding of the storytellers themselves. We learn how the patient acquired the AIDS virus he is dying from, and how the visitor lost his wife to another women. We learn of lives destroyed by circumstances beyond ones control, and how these lives were put back together, only to be lost again. And we learn how two men antagonistic at first, believing they are complete opposites, can come to love one another, realizing that they are not so different after all.
Grater Life is a daring and irreverent book that deserves to be read by a wide audience. This reviewer does not hesitate to give it his highest recommendation.
Wasteland Press, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-60047-291-6, 261 pages, paperback, $18.95