Review: The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones (Broken River Books; 2013)

12 Nov


Dreams of a glass-walled apartment beneath the city streets. The view? Darkness. Click the molars five times before answering the door, or you won’t deserve the gift the hallway has given.

Vegetable Ghost, Kid Hoodie, and Dashboard Mary may have arranged for the girl scout cookies to be left outside the apartment to which he’s been DIY-house arrested. Cellphones recording all the secret and polluted and artificial conversations to no one and nobody, the narrator’s two best friends. Evil often leaks from the past: picking at the least of his scars or being buckled in the backseat by his father all day. They monitor his perversions by how excited he gets from the images on his television in 15-minute increments.

Find goat hair to make devils and feathers for angels. Then swallow a marble to become blue cat-eye flame.

This odd novella takes place in an eerie void: unreliable narration, a web of anonymous apartments, and various characters who may or may not be figments of the narrator’s imagination. The style is clean, direct, and conversational, although there are many confounding and beautiful dark poetic nuggets sprinkled throughout. In one disturbing moment, our narrator sucks his cheeks in and chomps with all the force he can muster, at first disappointed he can’t taste blood gushing and then, when he succeeds, upset his teeth aren’t sticking from his face like toothpicks through a jack o’ lantern.

If you belong to Litreactor, there is an honest and deep article by Stephen Graham Jones called “Preparing for Company: Writing ‘The Least of My Scars'” about the dark but mind-expanding experience of writing this book. Apparently, he was struggling with a few different novels that didn’t quite come together when he began The Least of My Scars. This is a poignant and inspirational article for anyone who has tried to write novels over a sustained period. There is a sense of great elation and terrible defeat that comes with it. One hopes to be as dedicated as Stephen Graham Jones during the difficult periods.

I hope to read more of Stephen Graham Jones’ work, for his voice has definitely seared a new path of possibilities for what the novel can be.

check out The Least of My Scars here.

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