12.5 review of Under the Sea by Mark Leidner

1 Within minutes of reading the first story of this collection (“Badasses”) I felt at home. Not that I’m a badass but I grew up in the Deep South and Leidner’s ear for dialogue for the rhythms and cadences of southern teenage badassery speech was so spot on I felt it in my bones.

2 As everybody knows Mark is a poetry badass (if you don’t know that then you need to take a moment and knee to recognize). But reading these short stories it is immediately evident that his badassery extends to other literary forms as well.

3 Leidner is arguably at his best when he is playing out the infinitude of possibilities inherent in a situation and pressing them into a block of prose tight enough to produce a diamond that can cut anything. This is simultaneously one of the enviable and most enjoyable parts of his brain. The story “21 breakups” is a crystalline version of that.

4 She can’t believe that he can’t understand why they shouldn’t break up before they die to assert their agency in the face of imminent mortality, and he can’t see why they shouldn’t forget about that and meet death together, perhaps in discord about what it might mean, but at least defiantly allied. They go back and forth several more times, hashing out their various arguments, but they slip simultaneously into separate unconsciousnesses before their tiff is resolved. [p. 49]

5 The stories in this book contain traces of the inevitability of life being just the way it is and the crushing weight of circumstance. Maybe everything would be different if anything was, but everything is what it is and probably always has been. [p. 14]

6 It’s always good to have some down home cookin’ to see you through a book like this.

7 Mark is also a badass with a pair of scissors.

8 You know I had to.

9 There is a story in here (“Avern-Y6”) that is like this but if it were a fast-paced thriller.

10 This book is hilarious – so many immortal lines: The double surgery lasts 79 hours and has to be done simultaneously because too much of the nun’s blood is still mixed with the soldier’s, which requires a bunch of other little surgeries to be done to stabilize him before it can be pumped out, and the son of the idiots is the only person believed capable of pulling this surgery off. [p. 50]

11 Read a recent interview with Mark.

12 Mark’s Twitter is a rolling work of art.

12.5 Buy

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