Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha
Edward Falco, in his collection of short stories, Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha: New and Selected Stories, stylistically recalls the grotesque of Flannery O’Connor, the economy of diction of Ernest Hemingway, and the “Dirty Realism” of Raymond Carver, with stories that hauntingly expose the grit and challenge of the everyman and everywoman—characters who are us at the most primal of levels, but who are, too, the freakish darker parts of we who would only imagine doing or enduring what his characters endure and do.
Connie loses men—drunk-driving husband number one, who crashes his car through three walls and into their pool; thanatotic Doug, who finally succeeds in weighting his arms and legs to drown himself. Chad loses his mobster father to his murderous stepfather. Matt Penrose loses as much—to embarrassment of parents and an adolescence that he defines as “one unending moment of yearning for escape.”
Falco's realism is, though, more than readers watching characters watch water boil. It is watching them at the edge of a crisis where they have their hands on the handle of the teakettle, poised to hurl the scalding water at their perpetrators. Falco achieves this by a deliberate merging of the prose narrative with the lyric. His stories are carried by alternating points of view, often in the simple vernacular of the narrator's class. The tales are so simple they are complex. The characters are so ugly they are appealing. The author's style is so stark and unadorned it is poetry.
In the last century, readers lost Hemingway, Carver, and O’Connor, and thereby lost the possibility of more of the everyman prose. Their passing left readers without the classic rendering of the true side of humankind, the side that admits to fantasizing revenge by committing murder, by plotting rape; the dark and grotesque side that psychological realism fanatics suffered over but suffered more without. Edward Falco has inherited the legacy of that with which the earlier greats left readers wanting more. May he live a long writing life.