On the Scent of Cinnamon

24Dec08

In which The Gay Recluse files a book report.

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After we read Keith Banner’s The Smallest People Alive, we could not have imagined a more fucked-up society/culture than the low-class Midwest (US) described so effectively by Banner; imagine our surprise then, when we turned to another set of short stories — The Scent of Cinnamon by Charles Lambert — and discovered something even more warped! Lambert’s stories — all set in the U.K. or continental Europe — generally concern an educated class of people, which makes their brutal actions (or just as often, reserve) all the more horrifying (sometimes literally). Like Banner, Lambert likes to narrate from a dizzying array of perspectives — i.e., male/female, gay/straight (though he carefully avoids such terminology, thankfully) — and also like Banner, Lambert’s characters are not ones you’d like to consider friends; rather, he offers a vivid depiction of dark-ages society in which straight men are always cruel and emotionally distant, while the women are neurotic and conniving and dangerous (again, sometimes literally). Meanwhile the gays — having grown up under this regime — seem to have inherited the cruelness of their fathers and the weakness of their mothers, and so drift hopelessly damaged through whatever sordid adventures life has to offer.

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Whereas Banner uses sick humor to draw you through his narrative, Lambert employs a similar trick with his use of suspense; we cannot read any of these stories without a sinking feeling that something bad is about to happen, leaving us with the question of whether the damage will be psychological, physical or some combination. In Lambert’s best stories, there is a haunted quality to the prose that makes his vision seem strangely universal, which is the most terrifying effect of all, because we understand that this is a world that we, too, have inhabited, but from which we are never quite certain of having escaped.

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One Response to “On the Scent of Cinnamon”

  1. Oh, lordy, sounds like my sort of book entirely. I fear I may have to cast aside my dislike of hardback books and buy it anyway. Something to spend the Christmas money on at least!

    Anne B


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