14 thoughts on “Welcome to Sugarville – J.J. Haas

  1. God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

    “Crossing a bridge over the Chattahoochee, he looked down to see pine trees covered in a dark-green shroud of wilted kudzu alongside a bone-dry riverbed.”

    Even here in UK, reading this today, mention of ‘kudzu’ tells me exactly the nature of the place where this text with felicitous style takes me. I follow the compelling, increasingly desperate and bedroughted quest for water (away from his wife and gated community), the quest of Dr. Albert Cole (ironically, perhaps, a cataract specialist) as he reaches what I can only describe as an encounter with deeper reaches of this land than just water. A dire duel with another Doctor by dint of PhD (a native man with the name of Agaska and, incidentally, my first substantial work that I wrote in 1984 was called ‘Agra Aska’, later published in 1998).
    The ending is perfect. I also learnt a new word: giardia. I am already entranced. If I can, I intend to eke out this book’s stories towards its novel gestalt, and savour it slowly, as if it is a long-sought after watering in short supply. And I noted in the first story that even Lake Lanier was somewhat bedroughted.

  2. The Greenway

    “After all, she needed to keep her heart rate up in order to meet her cardiovascular goals.”

    Lucy Beaumont who lives on Sugarville Greenway is three years younger than I am. Out for her constitutional. Recognises some passers-by as younger versions of her own family past and present. Poignant ending, where I recognise the term ‘green way’ as almost a fairy story’s vanishment into the forest. (As a reader here about her walk, I deem it OK that I was following on behind, wondering who she really might be, hoping she might turn her head to face me.)

  3. Waiting for the Apocalypse

    “People are getting uglier every day, evil is everywhere you look, and Satan has established a stronghold in this world.”

    I am a mere Brit, but I think I can see the satire here of an American town in its heartland, and that end blast upon God’s Trump at the brink of apocalypse, but I may have got the wrong end of one of the Tentacles across the Atlantic. Whatever the case, he made me laugh, this man who attends Sugarville Baptist Church and thinks himself in cahoots with God and the survivalist kick and then leaving his tedious job to sell holes in the ground and call them bunkers against mayhem and other ways and means of manly gumption and so forth. But, as someone else said to him: “happy wife, happy life.” I think we all shall be mulching down for the night soon. “Net-net”, a story that sort of chews the final day’s fat with any sympathetic reader.

  4. The Waiting Room

    “The walls were unusually close together and contained amateurish paintings depicting the history of Sugarville—the Train Depot, the General Store, the First Baptist Church—“

    Jack is persuaded by his wife to seek a second opinion by a doctor on his cancer. The waiting room bears out all my nightmares about such places and my own hopefully erstwhile cancer. [And it seems, with its ‘getting even’ and ‘tie-breaking’, to somehow chime synchronously with a short short I happened to write two days ago here: http://www.ligotti.net/showthread.php?p=146250#post146250 ]

  5. The Black Parade

    “Your job is simple: make the kids laugh and keep them from getting crushed by a float.”

    Sugarville Corolla Fallstaff dollar-bills City Hall Mr Willis – but without this double L fulfilled was Bob’s cologne!
    Mimic and learner red-nosed clown at the town band parade, pubertal teenage Andrew is out for his early oats with Amy (she just shed her now previous boy friend), plus oldster Santa Claus with a secretly stowed bottle of what did him good, I really think I now know Sugarville’s gestalt thrust : a larger than life sinkhole aka Hell. And of course that umbrella at the end.

  6. The Disappearing Man

    “, sat directly opposite him but a foot and a half taller…”

    Disappearing – after a Friedrich Nietzsche quote – starting with his feet, the double L gone as it were, the calves and shins soon following. That made it one all, till all was gone. His young beautiful black personal trainer woman in attendance. But she didn’t notice. A sort of fading into one’s own background as it were, something that one and all of us face during departmental meetings at work. I knew it all so well. Thank goodness, with age, I am long gone from all that. Incredibly telling, this fell fable. That Sugarville sinkhole in another form?

  7. The Package

    A wonderful short short about a Sugarville man suffering from anxiety. Is he another nervous survivalist? It also helped cure my own anxiety about having enough ability to interpret books properly when gestalt real-time reviewing.

  8. Soulmates

    “I only have one rule: it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.”

    From a morning’s decaf vanilla latte, via Mozart and Monet, met or match, we follow a woman who once started VR liaisons work as a home office job for the money to help a redundant Husband, now, it turns out, for something more than she thought she wanted, as we delve into realms of sexual identity, erotic orientation and how WiFi turns a Wife into a real self beyond the masquerade. Give or take the odd helpful computer virus.

  9. A Model Citizen

    “He ate a lonely breakfast of cold cereal at the kitchen table in his Sugarville home and watched the news on TV. President Trumbull…”

    A blend of the identity morphing in the previous story with the earlier medical waiting room traumas, this is the story of a septuagenarian like me, who decides to buck the system by spending an old penny. When he does, bearing in mind his exact age, he leaves appropriately on a road called I-75. With poignant, telling, paradoxically cathartic results, even if we have already had our chips.

  10. The Last Book

    “, and looked like he had melted into the bed.”

    A telling brief vision of an old man dying and giving his grandson a book…

    I found this even more powerful having just finished a few minutes ago reviewing this work where the narrator IS a gestalt book….an ironic connection among many other connections perhaps about death, generations, leaving things — perhaps half-baked associations on my part?

  11. The Content Provider

    “He appeared supremely confident in spite of the fact that he was impersonating a pseudonym.”

    A darkly satirical caricature of publishing fiction these days as well as becoming a human dildo. A story that should become very popular and make its author a fortune as based on its own assessment of the potential audience for such as itself. Sugarville’s own.

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