Review published on March 13, 2018.
The stories found in The Fat Artist are not for the squeamish, they are not for the delicate of stomach or sensibility, they are not for the easily offended, or people with a fixed opinion of beauty, humanity or decency. They are, however, stories for people who like things that are out of the ordinary, things that are outside the narrow confines of modern taste.
Over the seven stories in the book, we are introduced to a number of different characters, from the slightly strange to the desperate, people looking for a way out of jobs, relationships, maybe life itself even.
The title story looks at the plight of Tristan Hurt, an artist who becomes his own nightmare installation. Gorging himself on dangerously high levels of food, he becomes the heaviest man who ever lived. His naked body, becoming bigger and bigger with every day, every viewer bringing him food to eat, he lives in the room, his every need taken care of by staff and technology. As the novelty of his installation wears off, so does the audience, until he has gained a certain amount of notoriety, of fame even the most toxic type cannot fill the void in his life.
In Don’t Worry Baby, Miles and Odelia are a couple with a young child on the run, and their new lives come to an abrupt during an eventful holiday, and the plane ride that takes them far away from the town and the life that they once knew.
In If I had Possession Over Judgement Day, Caleb struggles to hold down two jobs, one involving the transport and care of live squid, and when a different, easier type of life beckons, he takes the easier way out, which leads, unsurprisingly to catastrophic results.
The writing in this collection is of a uniformly high standard, touching on the types of characters that populate the work of Bukowski. Benjamin Hale cares about both his readers, and the characters in his book, and he is a definite talent to watch out for.
Ben Macnair 4/3
The Fat Artist and Other Stories by Benjamin Hale
Picador 9781509830312 pbk May 2017
SECOND OPINION: The Sacred Combe by Thomas Maloney