In Corporeality, Hollis Seamon’s latest fiction collection, we meet the cat lady, the professor dealing with a plagiarist while coping with personal hardships, sibling rivalry of the unnaturally cursed kind, the dog that goes beyond everyday dog sense and scent to protect its owners. These are some of the eclectic characters and settings that make Corporeality irresistible and difficult to put down once you’ve started reading. Like her preceding collection Body Work and mystery novel Flesh, this book is a testament to Seamon’s ample gifts as a storyteller.
Corporeality by Hollis Seamon is a collection of 10 stories ranging from 8 to 26 pages long, some even having small chapters within them.
This book’s title Corporeality is representative of the theme of the collection, rather than being the title of any work within it. This is a collection of stories with varying subject matter, but each resonate with the broader themes of the fragility of life, our mortality and our will to survive. In turn, it is about the beauty and gift of living – savouring the simple things like the sights and smells of changing seasons.
Hollis Seamon has turned the spotlight on those that find themselves on the periphery of society for one reason or another – whether that be physical difference, financial misfortune, abuse or mental illness.
Corporeality by Hollis Seamon is an edgy and original short story collection oozing compassion and pathos.
This powerful collection begins with this hard hitting opening of ‘SUTHY Syndrome’, a conversational and dark humoured narrative from a dying teen:
I shit you not: Right in front of the elevator that spits you into our hospice unit, there is — get ready for this — a harpist. This old lady with white hair and a weird long skirt sits by a honking huge wooden harp and strums. Or plucks, whatever. The harp makes all these sappy-sweet notes that glom themselves right onto your chest, no matter how hard you try to keep them off.
How sick is that? I mean, isn’t that like a bit premature? I sit there in my wheelchair, on good days, and I just watch people get off the elevator. They’re here to visit their dying whoevers and they think, just for a second, that they’ve skipped right over the whole death and funeral mess and gone straight to heaven.
Seamon somehow strikes just the right note, making light of the situation while giving due respect to the patients and families alike. ‘SUTHY Syndrome’ is a lesson for all in finding the positive within the darkest of moments.
Another notable work is ‘Annus Mirabilis’ in which an omnipresent narrator addresses the reader directly, employing a well known fairytale framework and substituting traditional characters with outcasts of society.
‘Leave it Lie’, a moving and emotive story about abortion, ‘Like a Virus’, a respectful yet frank exploration of mental illness, and ‘The Plagiarist’, a confronting look at how we can rationalise not taking opportunities rather than risk rejection, all highlight the power we give to our worries by not talking about them.
These stories contain profanity and subject matter that some may find confronting but Hollis Seamon artfully softens the blow by incorporating a minor fantasy element in many of the stories.
In Corporeality Hollis Seamon takes her readers to the precipice with a deft touch and confidence of purpose.
With so many high quality and original pieces in this collection it is difficult to pick a favourite, but of all the titles I was most moved by ‘Praise Be to an Afflicting God’ and ‘Fatty Lumpkin vs The Reaper’.
‘Praise Be to an Afflicting God’ is a moving story of people whose cries for help from society fall on deaf ears, who must find the strength to support each other, and sacrifice much to save themselves from disaster.
Troubles, here, come in torrents; triumphs only trickled.
‘Fatty Lumpkin vs The Reaper’ is a tear inducing story of the loyalty of a dog to its family, of people doing it tougher and with more dignity than imaginable. It is about the love of a father for his daughter, the love of a mother for her disabled son. It is about the strength given to those who live life with passion.
In this quirky, imaginative and undeniably moving collection of literature Corporeality, Hollis Seamon reminds us that what ultimately matters most in life is how we treat our fellow man – how we choose to live in the precious time we have.
BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5
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* This book counts towards my participation in the Short Story Summer Challenge.
Author Information: Hollis Seamon is Professor of English at the College of Saint Rose in Albany NY and also teaches for the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Fairfield University, Fairfield CT. She lives in Kinderhook NY.
Other reviews of Corporeality: I Believe In Story