The Next New World

Not only does Shacochis delve into the bizarre fantasies of sex-starved spinsters, grieving lovers, and necrophilic Civil War buffs; from all these journeys into the macabre he returns with ironic judgments of social and political realities. For example in “Les Femmes Croles,” the fantasies of “the two old Miss Parkers” embody a series of lover-liberators who parade all the social and racial variations of the Caribbean experience. In “Where Pelham Fell,” Colonel Taylor Coates turns his passion for the bones of Civil War soldiers into a ritual signalling his own death. It is no accident that the keeper of the graveyard where the bones are found is a black sharecropper named President Trass.

Perhaps the most daring story in the collection is “The Trapdoor.” Shacochis manages to re-create the world of Elizabethan England with astonishing detail. Captain Relsworth, a privateer, attends a production of William Shakespeare’s HAMLET. In less than twenty-five pages the reader is immersed in the political and social realities of the period--not to mention the niceties of the Shakespearean stage. In this case, the “next new world” is an old world rediscovered through the alchemy of fiction.