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Hurry Please, I Want to Know.

Paul Griner; HURRY PLEASE, I WANT TO KNOW; Sarabande Books (Fiction: Short Stories) 15.95 ISBN: 9781936747955

Byline: Jeff Fleischer

Griner grounds the peculiar in familiar settings, in this unique and memorable collection of stories.

What stands out most in Paul Griner's short-story collection, Hurry Please, I Want to Know, is the author's comfort and skill with stories that range from seemingly normal circumstances to outlandish situations he masterfully conveys in real terms. Griner's narrative style is almost journalistic, as he strikes a nice balance between plot and character, no matter the story's circumstances.

Hurry Please, I Want to Know includes twenty-two stories, several previously published in prestigious literary magazines, and ranging from just a few paragraphs in length to more than twenty pages.

One of the best stories in the book is "On Board the SS Irresponsible," in which Buddy, a bitterly divorced father, picks up his three children for a surprise fishing trip on his newly purchased boat. Because the story is told from Buddy's point of view, the reader becomes gradually more familiar with his lack of parental responsibility as it goes from merely roguish to truly horrifying.

Another highlight is "The Caricaturist's Daughter," which mixes a damaged father-daughter relationship with a strong dose of surrealism. Bernadette's father is a cartoonist who can erase her bad grades or change her teeth to fangs using only his drawing tools. "Newbie Was Here" is a rather harrowing story of a soldier making runs for milk to bring back to his operating base, risking his life for a group of fellow soldiers that includes white supremacists and gang members. "Trapped in the Temple of Athena" concerns a meeting between the protagonist and a mysterious woman who deals in bones, extracting them from corpses pre-burial to sell on the underground market.

Some of the stories in the collection get far stranger -- one focuses on a narrator cooking children, another on the characters hunting sentient words -- but the pieces mentioned above are more effective because they ground the peculiar proceedings in familiar settings or relationships. Griner's stories in Hurry Please, I Want to Know tend to be dark, but they also tend to be memorable and unique.

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Author:Fleischer, Jeff
Article Type:Book review
Date:May 27, 2015
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