Tabloid Dreams, Owen Butler Rothdas book review RSS
4.0 Stars

Well written and creative short stories that take lurid tabloid headlines and ground them in interesting characters with nuance and detail and various thoughtful elaborations on the writing prompt. That's the good part! The bad part is that much of the story matter is somewhat bland to me; it's hyper-focused on sex, and in particular it has this sort of Updikian mind space of "middle-aged, middle-American sex lives are super super fascinating and worth obsessing over". So, some examples. The starting story is about the ghost of a man who died during the Titanic sinking, and there are neat bits in there about the seat of consciousness being water, and his ghost moving through oceans and clouds and rivers and tea, and his last moments as the ship went down, and the various stages of the sinking. But the intended kicker of the story is that he meets this lady during the sinking, and that he regrets not boning her, and that in a sort of a "The Remains of the Day" fashion wasn't he always a ghost for not boning more people? And it's like eh, not really. Something you realize by the time you hit the triple digits of partners, and hopefully well before that, is that sex really does not need to be that big of a deal, and is certainly not worth the time and attention it takes away from your Starcraft practice. This first short story forms a pair with the final short story in the book, which is an account by the lady Titanic traveler after she is found in the Bermuda Triangle a century later. And again, there are neat bits in the story as she reacts to the new time period, but so much of the story is about similar sexual regrets (I wish I had boned more people before getting on the Titanic) or the paired regret (I wish I had boned that guy before he drowned to death). And ok, those aren't middle American, but they give you an idea of what I am talking about. Back to the good parts now! Some stand outs were _Alien Space Lover_ (nice detail and I liked both of the main characters), _Doomsday Meteor_ (dumb and spacey but very sweet lovers), and _Nymphomaniac_ (clever take on the condition, one of the sharpest endings). For the stories that didn't work as well, it was mostly because of the above mentioned factors, and because the Owen-Butler-Short-Story-Pattern becomes more predictable with repetition, and you start to expect the sorts of endings he shoves in there. Still, even if I didn't always connect with the subject matter, I did have a lot of respect for the writing and intelligence and creativity he puts out there. He's a genuinely talented writer, just not one that always has the same interests as me.