Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Road to Roma

By Dave Kuhne
Ink Brush Press pgs162
Submitted by the author
Rating: 3.5

The Road to Roma is a slim collection of short stories by Dave Kuhne, Associate Director of the William L. Adams Center for Writing at Texas Christian University. Mr. Kuhne is also the editor of descant, TCU's literary journal. Each story in Roma evokes Texas unerringly, from the Valley to Austin in the 70s and (although never identified) what can only be the flagship Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas in the 50s. Mexico also looms large, literally and figuratively. This doomed country holds a mythic place in the minds of restless Texans, escape from the law or the mundane or both, second chances and transformation. Indeed, I have run to Mexico (the mundane.)

Mr. Kuhne's characters are almost as strong as his sense of place: the non-nonsense car wash owner of Magic Coins who learns to respect a little voodoo; the man in No Scars Whatsoever terrified of fecund female power; Gary of the eponymous The Road to Roma who learns to assert and trust himself once again.

I enjoyed the majority of these stories. They are my favorite thing: slice-of-life short fiction, my first love. I do have a couple of notes to share. There is such a thing as slice-of-life and then there is such a thing as no actual story here. That is true of a couple of these works. My other quibble is with The Cook's Tale, a nod to Chaucer that sticks out like a sore thumb in  this collection, as if you lined up 6 frogs and then threw a rabbit into the mix. Or maybe I'm just not a fan of Chaucer.

I do hope Dave Kuhne continues to write. I think there could be some good stuff coming down the line. Texans will enjoy these stories, you'll recognize your friends and family in the characters. Just don't tell them that.

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