By way of common experience, we don’t usually tend to stay motionless in a seat or else we may feel numb. Discomfort causes motion and only when we start shifting sides within the confines of a seat do we realize that arriving at a balance of ease is not a promised lot. Similar is the case of the protagonists of Blair Oliver’s book Last Call (World Audience Inc., 2007) who are all men, mostly in their thirties, shifting ‘sides’ in the ‘seat of relationship’. The nine short stories included in Blair’s book picture a movement in the psychosocial co-ordinates of relationship, self-image, and responsibility.
Last Call intelligently portrays the disappointments and disillusionment that characterize the dynamics of social life and, particularly in Blair’s stories, family life. The book’s representative hero is a man with a troubled marriage, who must seek the least unacceptable way of losing himself to familial obligations, past grievances, and the fragility of circumstances. Movement is his necessity while caution serves as a learned signal of security against the odds of messing things up for himself but also for his ‘extended self’. The point of the matter is that you can’t be sure what the attempt of movement toward comfort will bring-a little ease or a debilitating fall.
The situations in Last Call pertain well to our modern urban culture where, as Michael Gilbert put it in his recent book The Disposable Male, man is increasingly being cornered as something good for a short-term use. There were times when women would give their soul to save their marriages but things have moved on since then. It is men’s turn now to resume the balance of family life by giving part of their authority and thus-paradoxically-gain control of their lives. Fatherhood and spousehood need to be reconsidered in a new social context. This is a challenge one can hardly obviate and the first thought of it may be the last call that can save our men from ultimate disposability.
Blair Oliver’s stories are fresh, concentrated in mood and feel, subtly revealing, and genuinely correcting. There is humor at places where the situations spontaneously call for it. Last Call is a book for all lovers of literary fiction, a must read for all men, and only the first in a potentially long list of quality fiction from this talented American teacher and writer.
Amazon Page: https://www.biblio.com/9781934209745