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Psychological Methods to Sell Should Be Destroyed: Stories
Robert Freeman Wexler
Spilt Milk Press, 80 pages

Psychological Methods to Sell Should Be Destroyed: Stories
Robert Freeman Wexler
Robert Freeman Wexler's stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including Polyphony, The 3rd Alternative, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and The Journal of Experimental Fiction. In 1997 he attended the Clarion West Writer's Workshop. He currently lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Robert Freeman Wexler Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Robert Freeman Wexler
SF Site Extract: The Circus of the Grand Design
Robert Freeman Wexler Interview

Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Enzinas

I should have known what to expect once I read Zoran Zivkovic's introduction in which he praises the small press for protecting the fundamental artistic nature of literature by publishing authors such as Robert Freeman Wexler instead of the large publishing houses that dominate the industry and are not willing to take risks for fear of lost profits from not catering to the masses. However, I failed to pay heed to this, not pausing to wonder why Wexler might not be of interest to one of the big publishers. Instead, I read on.

The first story is the tale of a giant fat man with four arms who slips and falls in the snow. He is resistant to getting up (for no explained reason) for some time until finally a group of Chinese people help him stand. They dance. The end. You may have gathered from this description that I was not terribly impressed with this bit of prose. You would be correct. There's a great deal of What (tall, 320 pounds, 4 arms) repeated over and over but not a drop of Why (is he lying there, does he have 4 arms, doesn't he just stand up) although he does give several explanations for his weight.

Shaken, but undaunted, I continued to the next story. This one has the most interesting concept of the whole book: a man who can understand the language of bread. Unfortunately he never takes it anywhere. The man listens to bread for entertainment and so it's about equivalent to a multi-page description of someone talking about how they listen to the radio or watch television. Still, even with the non-story, I enjoyed the style of his prose enough that the lack of substance did not prevent me from continuing.

The next three stories were actual stories. They had a plot where something happened. They had an ending. Sadly, they also all had the same kind of structure. A man who has trouble relating to other people (and women in particular) is trying to get on with his life but encounters something weird (magic mushrooms, a view of a jungle, a disembodied floating head). In dealing with the weirdness, the man has an epiphany. The End. These stories were OK, but by this point I was less than impressed with Wexler and in no mood to be charitable. In fact about half way through "The Green Wall," I managed to dump an entire container of Won Ton soup onto the book and I remember being pleased that there would now be some substance on the pages.

Then I read the final story, "Sidewalk Factory: A Municipal Romance." I should mention that at this point I was angry. I was angry that I was reading this book, I was angry that Wexler was not satisfying me with his prose, I was angry that these stories with their lovely weird twists were just so bland and unappealing and I was mad at myself for pushing on regardless. But this final story made it worth it. This story showed off Wexler's skill with prose to full effect. It gave him the opportunity to take that weirdness that he grasped so well and use it as elements to support the story instead of just hanging a description of events around it. It supported the story instead of being the story. It was brilliant. I loved it.

In the end, the problem with this book was the layout. Leave the final story as the anchor and then separate the three stories with the non-stories and the reader would have more opportunity to enjoy the differences in them in stead of fixating on the sameness. Still, as long as you don't read them in the order presented, this chapbook is worth the time.

Copyright © 2009 John Enzinas

John Enzinas reads frequently and passionately. In his spare time he plays with swords.

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