Barringer could’ve been the king of punk rock. No songs under four minutes. Precise orchestration with the impressions of nonchalance. Playing for the power of the thing itself. The anti-cliché.
The Human Case presents more than just an immensely enjoyable read, but a clear example and argument for the vitality and aesthetic possibilities of short fiction. This is punctuated poetry. I respect most Barringer’s ability to consistently deliver exciting new ways of story-telling (in language and/or format), yet retain a solid literary identity. After becoming familiar with his work you can tell when you’re reading a Barringer piece. They don’t sound the same – it is similar to the way an instrument or voice may produce a nearly infinite array of tones. Though the entire volume of twenty-nine stories (published by Brainpan Publishing [Canadian]) comes to a slim ninety-eight pages, there is more actual content here than many anthologies. Leaves you full with no filler.
He’s growing. Compared to The Leap and Other Mistakes, Barringer’s debut collection, The Human Case has a more polished quality. The stories here (ranging from beautiful to grotesque) leave no question in your mind that the symbols floating across your retina are intentional – that this is art and a human applied effort to create his. This striking simplicity and exactness of the language itself bears no pretension in its obvious brilliance:
The floor pulled my legs straight, the song fit into the shape of my mouth, and I clenched my fists and pretended to love my neighbors. I fought against the hardening of my mind into a righteous blade. I sang for the wind to come back and blow that place to hell.
-from “The Floor Machines”
These stories often defy physics much like surreal cinema, yet retain meaning; they express something, often ornate, hidden human emotions difficult to express in language. The closest comparison I can think of is Brautigan’s short fiction such as Revenge of the Lawn combined with David Lynch and an x component. That x component is the most significant quality in The Human Case: here we see a writer producing refined pieces which could – dare I say – be saying something unique in a unique way. By my watch, this hasn’t happened for fifty years. The most significant quality in The Human Case is a demonstration that quality, thoughtful independent literature is still being produced and that commercial publishers are underestimating the intelligence of the reading audience and overlooking some of the finest writers of our time.
You may purchase The Human Case at Brainpan’s website and independent bookstores as listed on www.davidbarringer.com, and you probably should.
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