JOURNAL OF AMERICAN PROGRESS AND OTHER SHORT STORIES
Andy Hurvitz crafts a collection of short stories, of people caught in the illusory melting pot of Los Angeles.
In three stories, inspired by the late Billy Strayhorn‘s mordantly elegant song titles: a taunting teen thug gets his comeuppance in “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing”; a retail sales clerk imagines he is friends with a laconic Western heir in “Something to Live For” ; a bitter decorator escapes to Chicago to plot revenge on his reality TV rival in “Lush Life”.
Colton Banning is the protagonist of three stories where the young multi-racial athlete, escaping desert poverty, tempts fate to conquer Hollywood through sports and social climbing, encountering wealth and power poisoned by sadism, revenge, sexual desire and envy in the hills, beaches and bedrooms of Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu.
In “Somebodies and Nobodies” a sex tape could blackmail a powerful woman and Colton risks his life to get it; Colton rents a room in a messy Venice house of refugees from India and Vermont, pursuing poetry, power and sex in “Journal of American Progress”; and in “The Bright Shop”, he is back in time, in 1969, to meet a successful LA fashion retailer living in an architectural dream house, a place she escaped to from the Holocaust.
Two other tales explore desperation under the sun:
In “Dry Wind”, a depressed film editor, tempted by escape and money, submits to an ex-girlfriend’s manipulation, falling under her spell, into theft and sex, on a car trip to San Angelo, TX .
And in “Day of the Deltoid” a bored, sexually addicted housewife navigates between decadence and respectability while remodeling her Cheviot Hills home.
No person who knows or dreams of Los Angeles can fail to be moved by this cunning and insightful writer whose caustic and poetic prose breathes the dirty air and fresh dreams of this region. It is an elegiac and entertaining collection.