rating: 3 of 5 stars
While looking for my next book to read, the phrase “hyper surreal” came up in a description of this book. The phrase sold me on the collection of short stories and I cannot improve upon it, in terms of explaining the piece to you.
The Ice at the Bottom of the World falls into the non-magical subcategory of the Southern Gothic genre, but that does not make it less fantastical. An excerpt from “Fishboy” will hopefully summarize the tone. The language Richard uses is consistently concrete, yet unsettling. The opening sentence reads, “At night, stray dogs come up underneath our house to lick our leaking pipes,” and the story spirals into even more concerning realms of absurdity, all told from the cool and unsentimental perspective of a child. This is Faulkner, if Faulkner had enjoyed hallucinogenics.
Some stories fall short, but maybe I will find meaning in them later. My favorites, if you are interested in picking a select few out of the collection for a quick read, were “Strays,” “Her Favorite Story,” “This is us, Excellent,” and the one with the killer dark humor, “The Ice at the Bottom of the World,” for which Richards has written a screenplay adaptation. The movie has an anticipated release date in 2010.