Friday, February 26, 2010

A Twist of Malice by Jean Rae Baxter, reviewed by Iuliana Andriescu

I confess I was biased toward liking Jean Rae Baxter’s short story volume A Twist of Malice. For one thing she is my latest discovery of a late blooming writer, a list which I started a long time ago with Daniel Defoe and of which I secretly hope to become part.

For another, I relate to the settings, the small town Ontario locations which give the volume a mundane, familiar air. But most importantly I was mesmerized to see a reflection of the people around me, maybe even of myself, that we most often pretend does not even exist.

But that reflection was there all right in Jean Rae Baxter’s world populated by musicians and baseball players, the neighbour next door and architects, nurses and teachers, pensioners, adolescents and children, sick or downright psycho people.

I couldn’t help feeling the ordinariness, pervasiveness and fascination with evil which is shown to be so much a part of life and woven subtly but inextricably into the everyday, like an exquisite crochet. In this collection, children tread mires of cruelty and murderers give first person accounts that would make Poe very proud of all these literary descendants.

The tone is amazingly unifying for the whole volume, secretive, intense, dark, that’s why there sometimes seems to be even voice transfer from one story to the next, for all the other meticulously achieved changes.

In ultimate authorial twists of malice, Jean Rae Baxter vanishes abruptly at the end of the steep climb she’s taken you along and you, the reader, find yourself all alone on the verge of the cliff with an amazing view, never closer nor more distant than your eyes can see. Her endings are open and breathtaking and contribute excellently to the overall impression that each piece is chiseled so as to make the most of the short story form.

And the same for every other structural element: one or two characters are developed to inhabit fully their episodic appearances, the focus is on atmosphere building, the pieces are intense and short enough to be gulped in one sitting, words are economically but poignantly chosen, the beginnings foreshadow the story and then the endings. Well, they leave you wanting more.

A Twist of Malice is a delightfully twisted read.
*
Iuliana Andriescu found it very tempting to review A Twist of Malice and gave in to temptation. She had just discovered that Quick Brown Fox was looking for book reviews and had just met the author of A Twist of Malice at Brian’s “Writing with Style workshop.” Jean’s presentation intrigued, inspired, and energized her, so she went straight home and read the book. Iuliana is currently trudging over a few short pieces of her own and planning on taking more workshops to refine her voice and vision.

Note: If you'd like to write a review, check out the guidelines here. If you'd like to join our on-going conversation about good reads, go here.

Jean Rae Baxter will be the guest speaker at the "Writing with Style" workshop, Saturday, March 13, in Orangeville.  Details here.
For information about all of Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

1 comment:

  1. I would like to thank Iuliana Andriescu for her thoughtful, thorough and generous review of A Twist of Malice. When Iuliana's first collection comes out, I hope to be among the first to buy a copy.

    Sincerely,

    Jean Rae Baxter

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