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Stumbling and Raging: More Politically Inspired Fiction

Answering the Question of "What If?"

If the aim of fiction is to start with the question of "what if" and run with it, this second installment of politically inspired fiction, Stumbling and Raging, certainly puts the phrase to task. The book is subdivided into five organizational principles: the politics of children, culture, desire, fear, and war.

Under these umbrellas you will find questions such as what if you were one of the grammar school students sitting in a Florida classroom on September 11th while President Bush read you the story "The Pet Goat"? What if you lived in a metaphysical climate of an eye for an eye and every malicious action you perpetrated on someone was suddenly perpetrated on you? What if the US deployed troops to the Yucatán because Mexico no longer existed? What if you were John Ashcroft? Yes, the permutations are stymieing, but they are also inventive and fun in the hands of these writers.

The stories are not long and with that in mind, most smack of incident more than story. What the stories lack in length, they make up for in tone. Dave Eggers' "Your Mother and I" is a gentle scene but it is also a farce, albeit a well-intentioned one, where a father informs his child point by point how he and his wife managed to solve all the world's social ills. Ryan Boudinot's "Newholly" offers a scene of child abuse perpetrated by immigrants: the story is leavened by an ethical quandary for the narrator. Alicia Erian's "Camp Whitehorse" examines an erotic triangle that collapses when it becomes a rectangle, and reinvents when it becomes a pentagon. "Motherhood and Terrorism" by Amanda Eyre Ward juxtaposes the joy of pregnancy with a violent and oppressive locale of Saudi Arabia. The tone here is disturbing and effective because the "what if" never really gets answered.

To break up the deluge of text, the anthology also includes a series of fake letters written Onion style including a piece from "submissions editor" Tom Ridge, a request to Dick Cheney for employment in the "shadow government", and a modest proposal to the Florida Department of Corrections to alleviate the prison population problem, specifically among female prisoners. A frank cartoon by Eric Orner, "Morning Martyrs" dramatizes what could happen when an anti-choice enforcer subjects her own sister to her political agenda.

Are there duds? Sure. The stories in the "war" section tend to lose their grounding -- heavy on polemic and scene and light on characters you would care about.

While none of the stories in Stumbling and Raging blatantly attack our government, they urge non-complacency. It is as if the Irish writer Brendan Behan was sitting on their shoulders, saying as he did in Confessions of an Irish Rebel: "The first duty of any writer is to let his Fatherland down, otherwise, he is no writer."

Readers should also know that the royalties from this anthology are to be used to fund the campaigns of "progressive candidates" in 2006.

Stumbling and Raging: More Politically Inspired Fiction
Edited by Stephen Elliot
Pub Date: January 17, 2006
MacAdam Cage Publisher
ISBN: 1-59692-158-7
$14, paperback
331 pages