Review of Root and Shoot (Nathan Leslie)

Making a Case For Himself

The number of writers appropriately known for stellar flash fiction production can be boiled down to a handful, and even then I generally land on Etgar Keret as king, prince, duke, and what have you ad infinitum. But Nathan Leslie, in his new collection Root and Shoot, quietly propels the reader through short after short, making a case for himself as a flash writer worth paying attention to.

An Apartment Complex

His stories build an apartment complex of themselves in which all his characters and their correlative stories reside in rooms. In this way, each feels standalone in the way steel girders in a mega-structure might be labeled such. You might take a story out of context and think it’s quite nice, but only in their put-togethered-ness do they shine.

Certainly, some pieces wedged themselves into my brain space like a chess piece making its checkmate move. My two favorites were “In Different Rooms” (a prescient little jaunt about a couple who make side money donning lizard costumes in department store parking lots) and “The Make Out Club” (which is about what the title indicates). But for every story that sparkled, another rushed in at the reader with enough tepidness for me to be thankful that they were only flashes (the number of stories whose main character happens to be a writer was especially bothersome).

These stories make a worthwhile book because of the way they collectively amass a lively theorem of how all of us, however weird, however many times we might wear lizard costumes to make money throughout a given week, are just trying to find our way in a daunting, confusing life.

Conclusion

Part of these stories’ at times plainness plays into the purpose of the collection: we know these people because we are these people. That aside, some stories could have been cut without losing any vitality, though such is the gambit when picking up a bundle of flash. No one can avoid the occasional misstep. Nonetheless, Leslie has presented a body of flash worth any reader’s time.


Root and Shoot is published by Texture Press.

 

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