BookBin2013: Look Down, This Is Where It Must Have Happened

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Continuing with the books I finished during those long flights to and from Hawaii, I decided that I also wanted to whittle away a bit at the collection of books I have picked up from City Lights Bookstore the last two times I’ve been to San Francisco (ironically, we had a long enough layover in San Francisco during our journey to the islands that I could have gone back to City Lights for some more perusing…but then we wouldn’t have gotten to do anything else. Because bookstores require HOURS.).

I admit that I chose Hal Niedzviecki’s short story collection Look Down, This Is Where It Must Have Happened because it’s a nice slim paperback that fit nicely into my backpack, in between my DSLR bag and my Kindle. I also admit that sadly one of the first things I noticed about this book was the fact that the Table of Contents listed the wrong pages for every single story (at least in my copy). For someone who spends a soul-crushing amount of time QCing minutia just like this, I was not happy to find such a glaring error during my leisure time. To me, this speaks to a lack of quality in the preparation that could have indicated a lack of quality in the product.

Luckily, this was not the case. Niedzviecki’s stories are captivating oddities, populated by strange and slightly indecipherable (and sometimes utterly unnerving) characters. His language is sparse and understated. His concepts are quirky and often complex…or at the very least complicated. One could imagine his characters populating a world conceived by Charlie Kaufman or perhaps even Robert Altman…actually, I detected a bit of Raymond Carver in these stories (Carver’s collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love was the inspiration for Altman’s 1993 film Short Cuts). Niedzviecki isn’t quite as intensely restrained in his prose as Carver was, but he wields a similar precision in the selection of words to convey his tales. He also embraces the ambiguity of open endings that I sometimes really enjoy.

Final Verdict: I enjoy having short story collections on call into which I can dive quickly for a tale or two, so I do believe I shall be keeping this one.