Populating a small town in the Pacific Northwest, the characters in Lucia Perillo's story collection all resist giving the world what it expects of them and are surprised when the world comes roaring back.
An addict trapped in a country house becomes obsessed with vacuum cleaners and the people who sell them door-to-door. An abandoned woman seeks consolation in tales of armed robbery told by one of her fellow suburban housewives. An accidental mother struggles to answer her daughters badgering about her paternity. And in three stories readers meet Louisa, a woman with Down syndrome who serves as an accomplice to her younger sister's sexual exploits and her aging mother's fantasies of revenge.
Together, Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain is a sharp-edged, witty testament to the ambivalence of emotions, the way they pull in directions that often cancel one another out or twist their subjects into knots. In lyrical prose, Perillo draws on her training as a naturalist and a poet to map the terrain of the comic and the tragic, asking how we draw the boundaries between these two zones. Whats funny, what's heartbreaking, and who gets to decide?
BAD BOY NUMBER SEVENTEEN
Dont tell me about bad boys. Ive seen my black clouds come and go. Coming they walk with their shoulders back like theyve got a raw egg tucked inside each armpit, and they let their legs lead them. Going, you can count on the fact that their butts will cast no shadow on those lean long legs. You cant compete in the arena of squalid romance if youre one of those guys shaped in the rear like a leather mail sack: youre automatically disqualified. Thats just the way it is. I didnt make the rules.
My prodigals make up for slender means by wearing their jeans tight enough so that their billfolds have a hard time sliding in. And they make up for the fact theyre usually kind of stupid by not saying much. This is important. This is the litmus test. The last thing you want is a desperado with a big mouth; you might as well invite a wild elephant home for dinner.
See, for years I have done some serious ...
Lucia Perillo has previously published over half a dozen books of poetry; no surprise, considering this book is full of stories short on words and long on nuance. She seems to come to no conclusions on what the human condition is, or what it means. At the same time, she presents all kinds of evidence that every one of us is inept and needy, yet wonderful in spite of ourselves. This is a book to make us feel better about our shortcomings - even in the deepest despair there is hope.
(Reviewed by Beverly Melven).
Full Review (712 words).
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest is featured in a few of the stories in Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain. Several characters maintain trails and clear brush, and these serve as interesting metaphors for dealing with life's hurdles. But of course, a national park is more than just a metaphor.
Named for the first Chief Forester of the U.S. Forest Service, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is located in the Cascade mountain range in Southwestern Washington State. It has gone through several name changes, but was first set aside in 1897 and is therefore one of the oldest national forests in the United States. It currently encompasses 1.3 million acres which now includes the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic ...
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