Sea, Swallow Me and Other Stories

by Jack Gardner

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday December 1, 2008

Craig Laurance Gidney has a talent for putting words together in an evocative and often disturbing way. His latest book Sea, Swallow Me and Other Stories takes the reader through a labyrinth of words in search of shadows and hauntings.

Pain is the connecting theme of all ten stories that make up "Sea, Swallow Me." In one way or another, each main character is suffering. The gay African American man who does not fit in to the Goth culture he so longs to be part of ("Ethiolate") and the child who sees painful visions of the deceased and departed in "Come Join We" both experience the sting and empty feeling of not fitting in somehow. Such themes dominate the book.

"Sea, Swallow Me" is not an easy read. The language is beautiful and in many ways poetic, but the stories themselves are so relentlessly disturbing that the book as a whole suffers from a lack of uplift that ultimately renders the darkness tedious. Gidney is a master of the English language and his prose is evocative and sensual in the way that Anne Rice writes, but where both write about gruesome subjects, Gidney's writing lacks the mystical detachment that elevates Rice's dark musings. His scenes involving blood and death are more disturbing than anything Rice has written.

By the time one reaches the final and perhaps most gruesome story, "Catch Him By The Toe," one is neither particularly shocked nor moved having just been through nine other stories where nothing good happened. A happy ending would have been far more astonishing.

"Sea, Swallow Me" is a fine book if you like the short story genre. It is best savored slowly, one story at a time. That way you can enjoy the beauty of Gidney's language, appreciating his storytelling without experiencing the monotony of the never-ending bleakness.

Lethe Press, 2008. 204 pages, $13.00. ISBN: 1590210662. Available online through Amazon.

Jack Gardner has been producing theater in Dallas and Fort Lauderdale for the past 8 years. He has performed in operas, musicals and dramatic works as well as doing voice-over and radio work. Jack lives in South Florida with his three dogs.