Thursday, February 05, 2004

Review by William Maltese, author of Thai Died, for

I'd be out beating the drum for everyone to buy this slim anthology even if every story in it were as boring as watching paint dry, as amateurish as finger-paintings by kindergartners, and/or as lacking in literary merit as a porno flick. Because, all author and editor royalties from THE ACORN GATHERING go to the American Cancer Society, and there are few of us whose lives haven't in someway been negatively touched by cancer, whether as regards ourselves, our family members, our friends, and/or our acquaintances.

That said, I'm exceedingly happy that the six contributors provide "anything but" boring, amateurish, and/or lacking in literary merit. Not all of the stories, by the way, have cancer as a thematic. If Duane Simolke's short story, "Finding Acorns In Winter" does tell the poignant tale of a woman surviving breast cancer, juxtaposed against an earlier American Indian woman facing death by starvation, the same author's hilarious "Fat Diary" is about a "big-boned" woman trying to find love and lose weight. Bill Wetzel's wonderful "Nachos Are Green And Ducks Appear To Be Blue At Town Pump In Cut Back, Montana" is about just that. Jan Chandler's "The Gun" drips irony as a tale examining the pros and cons of gun control.

Back to Simolke -- his "The Last Few And The First Few" poignantly post-9/11, via one man's personal reflections on his past -- no potential reader should pay too much attention to this book being promoted as the "sequel" to that author's short-story collection, THE ACORN STORIES, published in 1998. At least as far as assuming anyone need have read the former to enjoy the latter. No need to fear getting lost in this book's story lines, not privy to essential background, because each short story stands entirely on its own.

Which isn't to say you should pass up any opportunity to read Simolke's THE ACORN STORIES. (The "Acorn" of both books, by the way, referring to the same small town of Acorn, west Texas). Simolke's right-on descriptions of life in rural America, no matter where you're lucky enough to find them, will have you never driving through any bit of U.S. countryside ever again without looking at it as far less idyllically bucolic than you might once have imagined.
Review by William Maltese, author of Thai Died, for Barnes & Noble.Com

I picked up my copy of THE ACORN GATHERING at the same time I bought THE ACORN STORIES. I bought the latter, because someone whose literary judgment I respect told me that author Duane Simolke had written some genuinely good stories, all about the small town of Acorn, west Texas (which did, indeed, turn out to be the case).

My reasons behind purchasing THE ACORN GATHERING were two-fold. One, the book, although written by six authors (Simolke included), was being promoted as a follow-up anthology to THE ACORN STORIES. Two, and more importantly (to me anyway), the authors of THE ACORN GATHERING were donating all of their royalties from the book to the American Cancer Society. What better way to do my little part toward fighting cancer than by buying the book?! With the added advantage of getting more Simolke stories in the bargain. Not that I ended up in any hurry to read Simolke's contributions, or those of his altruistic fellow collaborators. I just couldn't get in the mood to subject myself to what I figured were probably depressing short stories with cancer themes. Big mistake on my part, and big mistake on anyone else's part. Because if THE ACORN GATHERING does include tales of people with cancer, it also contains ... Simolke's very funny 'Fat Diary' about an overweight librarian out to lose weight and find some lovin' ... Bill Wetzel's 'Nachos Are Green And Ducks Appear To Be Blue At Town Pump In Cut Back Montana' that is just as wonderfully entertaining as it sounds ... Jan Chandler's 'The Gun' that will have one and all pondering the pros and cons of gun control. All of those, and all of the rest, marvelous reading packaged to provide short story aficionados, like myself, not only with superb reading material but also with an excellent way to contribute to a genuinely great cause.