Review: Stabs at Happiness by Todd Grimson (Short Story Collection)

These are the stories of societies taboo outcasts. The characters that polite society would rather ignore. Degenerative and hopeless, these characters help set the tone and paint this collection of short stories the darkest black.

Many of the characters in this collection are drug users/dealers, prostitutes, killers, and transvestites…..but they all have something in common, they are all looking for a little bit of happiness and hope in their own hopeless lives.

Author Todd Grimson effortlessly blends powerful storytelling with gritty prose to create a new provocative approach to contemporary literature.

Grimson’s style has been described as esoteric, and I would agree….I think his style would appeal to a limited audience, however it is an exciting style that I think literary buffs who don’t mind reading a highly intelligent, gritty, modern gothic style story or two should pick this up.

One of my favorite stories is the fictional novella about Jean Harlow called “What the Matter Is”. It was painful obvious that she was a deeply disturbed woman….lost and lonely looking for love and affection but yet at the same time, longing to escape from her everyday reality. During a drug and alcohol fueled binge, she literally jumps from one bed to another finding different men and women to help fill the emptiness in her, even if it is all just an illusion.

I love her rawness. I love that she has it all….money, fame, beauty…..but yet something is missing. Something she can’t provide for herself and something that all the money in the world won’t buy…..happiness. One scene that was particularly powerful was when she started noticing how many women were trying to emulate her, all dying their hair bleach blonde while here she was trying to blend in with her brown wig, just trying to escape herself. Aren’t we all in some way trying to escape ourselves and our lives? Or maybe that’s just me :). Either way I could totally sympathize with her….flawed taboo character or not.

I also enjoyed the “Wrong” story. There was clearly a complex relationship between Joe and his father. I love how Grimson called attention to one specific event in Joe’s life that seemed to send Joe down the path of self destruction. But for all Joe’s flaws, mistakes, and shot comings…..he was looking for love and acceptance from his father. I love how Joe idolized his father in the beginning. His father was a womanizer and partier, and to Joe that meant ‘coolest dad ever’. But then he saw his father for what he was, a drunk and he hated him for it. Yet Joe started turning into his father in many ways….but not in all the same ways.

While there were many things I liked about each of the stories there were a few stories I had a hard time tracking and seeing the relevance of. The first story “Hurt’s Rescue” was a little difficult for me to adjust to. I wasn’t sure what the point was and didn’t see the deeper meaning in the story in the same way that I saw it in other stories. I thought the collection should have opened with an alternative story….perhaps a more powerful story to grip the audience. I just didn’t think this one was as strong as some of the others.

Grimson has a very unique style that might not work for all readers but it is provocative and exciting. If you are a fan of contemporary literature and want to dabble in the darker side of modern, cutting edge literature then pick this collection of short stories up. You might not like everyone, but there is a little ray of hope in the darkest of stories and the most taboo characters.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Stabs at Happiness by Todd Grimson (Short Story Collection)

  • Paperback, 200 pages
  • Published November 1st 2012 by Schaffner Press
  • ISBN 1936182440 (ISBN13: 9781936182442)
  • Copy provided by: The Neo Com Group

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (a dark unique style prose exposing the rawness of societies most taboo characters)

Genre: Gothic Lit, Contemporary Lit, Short Story collection

Memorable lines/quotes:

People have a way of doing things, little things maybe, that show how they really feel… underneath their phony smiles.

She liked having people look at her, feeling the reflected heat (from the sun? solar flares?) in their eyes.
They must be looking at something, she supposed.

…some part of her was curious what such total abandon would be like. Who would you be afterwards?

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