To the business at hand—living.
About The Dunning Man: Stories by Kevin Fortuna: The six stories in The Dunning Man feature anti-heroes who reject society’s rules. Characters from all walks of life—a rogue hip-hop star, a blackjack dealing mom, a middle-aged drunk plowing through his inheritance, and an empty-nester housewife trying to make peace with the past. They each exist in the here and now, living for what’s possible and what’s left—not what they’ve left behind. Redemption awaits all, but only along the rutted, gut-churning path of honest self-examination. Age quod agis.
Set in Atlantic City, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., the Hudson Valley and Manhattan, Fortuna’s stories depict the violent clash between society’s expectations and the chaotic arc of individual destiny. These are powerful tales of truth seekers imbued with larger-than-life personalities and the all-consuming need to find something worth seeking.
My two centsAge quod agis. To the business at hand -- in the case of Kevin Fortuna's characters, it's simply about living. Everyone is interesting in their own right. But it does take a special type of person to recognize that, and tell a story, just like Kevin Fortuna has in his astute observations of six ordinary people.
This is by no means a happy collection of stories; they are a sad bunch, stuck in a rather humdrum existence and are merely just getting by, mainly drugged up, on alcohol, sexed up, or simply f*cked up. These read like real lives, gritty ones, with no sugarcoating. There is some bizarreness thrown in for extra measure, and I totally believed it hook, line and sinker. Life is not perfect, it's messy, it's gross, and it can also be ridiculous at times.
Here are quick summaries of his quirky characters:
Dead follows a youngish man on his way to a big date with a woman who he thinks is extra special. But it seems that the fates conspire against him.
In Weddings and Burials, an older couple's past is unwittingly unearthed ... and they come out with an interesting realization.
Sullapallooza is about the quintessential godfather and the group's black sheep. Pop everyone together in one event and you know something will happen.
Poor Jimmy sets you up to feel sorry for poor, hard-up, go-nowhere Jimmy. In a boys' night out, Jimmy ends up doing something that turns the phrase "poor Jimmy" on its head.
Flogging Maggie is about two women, obviously attracted to each other but never going there, on a trip to their past of dashed dreams of rock-dom.
The Dunning Man is about a young man who simply wants to earn some honest money by leasing his apartments. Reads like a tall tale, with his array of strange tenants and the resulting conflicts he has to iron out. These involve an attractive single mom, a foreigner with a live show featuring a tiger, a philosophy-spouting pro-wrestler, and non-paying heiresses.
I love the cover which depicts a dead-end street, pretty much like the lives that are portrayed in this mini-collection. But wait ... is that a limousine?
Uh-ohThere are 6 stories and because they are so succinct, I found myself wanting more. Typically short story collections run from 10-12 stories and this felt like I was just warming up and then it just ended.
Verdict: I really enjoyed this collection of short stories that depict some very gritty lives. Fortuna has a special way of making the ordinary and lucklustre seem intriguing at least and provoking at best. I highly recommend this for those who love insightful characterizations, short story lovers, and those who aren't afraid to read about messy and sometimes bizarre lives.
About Kevin FortunaKevin Fortuna lives in Cold Spring, New York. He obtained a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Georgetown University, where he graduated summa cum laude. He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Quicksall Medal for Writing, a Fellowship in Fiction at the Prague Summer Writers Workshop and a Full Fellowship in Fiction at the University of New Orleans, where he received his MFA.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in order to participate in this tour with an honest review. Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour here.