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Literature : review

Joe Meno’s “An Apple Could Make You Laugh”

by B.C. Edwards

BOMBlog’s B.C. Edwards reviews a single story from Joe Meno’s collection Demons in Spring.

Drawing by Geoff McFetridge.

It’s interesting to review a single story pulled out of a longer collection. With no other points of relation, the story is forced to exist alone and is far more defenseless than a piece side-by-side with others of its ilk. Still, “An Apple Could Make You Laugh” by Joe Meno is quite lovely. There is a quiet truth it evokes about the base nature of human desire and lust in the modernized world. This is not new ground to be traversed by any means, but Meno covers it well and with a very measured hand.

The song “Ring of Fire,” was made famous by Johnny Cash but was written by his then married-to-another-man but soon-to-be wife June Carter. Curiously, the song was written about the deep uncontrollable extramarital lust that she, herself, was feeling for Cash, who was married himself but in love with Carter. The fire of hell that one would be cast into for cheating on a spouse is also the same fiery and sultry lust that one feels at the thought of the act. In the song that unrequited passion is all the stronger and seeps from each word, note and chord. Meno evokes many of the same sensory illusions by means of the pictures his two characters draw for and then surreptitiously pass to each other as they move quietly through their nondescript work days and their nondescript jobs. “Kissing you would be like this… a picture of a man made of ice kissing a woman who is actually a stove.”

The story follows two unnamed co-workers through a very stilted and yet rather vibrant office romance. Meno’s skill comes across in how painfully well he maintains these two qualities. The more intense the narrator’s feeling for his object of desire grow, the more roundabout and obtuse their methods of communications become, thus the more heightened his fantasies grow, thus the more intense the feelings become; and on in a cycle to an unsurprising but remarkably well written end.

But the strength of the piece isn’t the imagery, rather it is the familiarity the reader feels with the emotions that Meno lays out. It’s difficult to write such simple, genuine people and put them in regular comprehensible surroundings and not bore your reader. But here it works. Meno’s prose borders on the poetic and that marries perfectly with his characters and the subject matter of the piece. If there is anything about the piece that falls a bit short it is, curiously, the illustrations themselves. When providing visual content for written work, the images need to live up to the quality of writing, at the very least be as strong as the images that are present in the text. But here, Geoff McFetridge’s, illustrations (while quite nice) do not succeed.

Each story from Joe Meno’s collection Demons in the Spring has been reviewed individually by 20 different literary blogs. Read them all at the Akashic Books website.

B.C. Edwards is a novelist and writer who lives in New York City.