Books InReview: Short Lean Cuts

I’m no saint. I’m no sinner either. Just the worst possible human being you can imagine: I’m bored.

I’ve been revising my review of Alex Pruteanu’s Short Lean Cuts for a while now.

I’ve read it twice and I love it.

Conversely, I hate that I’m grappling with so many words simply trying to find the absolute best ones — the perfect ones — to describe the book. This phenomenon also happened to me recently, with both Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby and Darby Larson’s The Iguana Complex. As with Short Lean Cuts (hereafter, SLC), I love these books — love them! As such, I feel like I’d be letting them down if I didn’t put as much care and attention into their reviews as humanly possible. Each one ended up being shorter than I’d’ve (ideally) liked and each one took longer to write than I’d've (ideally) liked, but it’s only because they’re worth it!

So then…

Defining SLC isn’t easy, though I suppose it probably could be. File it under “Fiction.” File it under “Short Stories.” Etc. etc. But, then again, don’t file it anywhere just yet. Those designations feel wholly inadequate to me, too simple — too… generic.

Perhaps you should file SLC under “Meta—.”

File it under “Jazz Prosetry.”

File it under “Awesome.”

Short Lean Cuts offers deviates from whatever your expectations are right away with a set of clear instructions for how to read it. At once, you know Pruteanu is playing with you, but you can’t help but be intrigued.

Pour a refreshingly-stiff libation of your choice; hilarity ensues within the next few minutes.

Please note the location of the exits on either side. If you are sitting in an emergency row you are required to prop open the door before you fling yourself first, down the inflatable inner tube slide thing.  It’s only fair to the trampling herd behind you.

You simply say, “Lead on, good sir!”

There are deep layers of sarcasm and irony woven into the fabric of SLC, but never is it heavy-handed or over-used.

It’s all filler. All of it. Information, education, life.
We all are. . .
It has nothing to do with altruism, this record I’m leaving here. Nothing has anything to do with unselfish regard or devotion to others. . .
I just don’t want to connect anymore. . .
We’re all miserable together.

It all feels just right while often sounding so wrong — never mind that I spliced those snippets together like the narrator of Pruteanu’s “Cutter,” splicing together a frame of porno in the middle of reel 2 of Ninja Turtles.

Pruteanu, a drummer as well as a writer, also has an extremely fine-tuned ear for how sentences should sound. Sometimes, he even takes common phrases and shifts the word order for a more harmonically pleasing phrasing.

SLC also, at times, seems equal parts homage and clinamen — the latter of which is Harold Bloom’s term for “the necessary swerve from literary forebears writers must make to become truly original.” Pynchonian names and terms pop up like “Tramby Quirke” and “the Cult of Agriculture Fertilizer.”
Fair doses of extreme minimalism and post-Yuppie-Nihilism give curt forward-facing nods to Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, et al. while simultaneously flipping them the bird as they walk off, because — fuck it — Pruteanu’s got his own thing, and, most of the time, it’s even better than all those others’.

Everything we do is an addiction. Living is an addiction. Dying is.

After a time, I begin to run low on superlatives for books like this. I suffer analysis paralysis from trying to decide which quotes from the book I want to include because ultimately, I just want to put the whole thing in a block quote and paste it here.

Don’t take my word for it, though. See for yourself. If you have a Kindle (or free Kindle app on your preferred i-/e-Device), the book is only $0.99, so, really, there’s no excuse for not giving SLC a personal read through.



Joseph Owens Joseph Michael Owens

Joseph Michael Owens is the author of the 'collectio[novella]' SHENANIGANS!, and has written for [PANK], The Rumpus, Specter, Grey Sparrow & several others. He is the blog editor for both InDigest Magazine and The Lit Pub, but you can also find him online at Joe lives in Omaha with three dogs and one wife.

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