Short stories seem to be on the upturn in self-publishing and I am beginning to warm to the genre when I get to read something as original as this collection, ” Beauty And The Singularities” by John Waite.
So what are the singularities of beauty? The development of knowledge of some other kind of beauty, maybe, beauty in the soul or in a memory, or maybe how one small happening can relate to another quite by accident and yet cause an event that is very much on purpose. This is the theme here, and with eight stories that somehow feel connected I had a shiver of “Cloud Atlas” as I read.
The first story is very much an opener and really gives the reader a bit of a grounding in these concepts. “The Swallowtail Singularity” is a nod to the common trope from Lorenz of the butterfly effect, ” If a butterfly flaps its wings in China…”, and flashes the reader between far flung corners of the earth to meet different people going about their business until something quite definite happens.
The next story was probably my favorite in the book. “Belligerent Jerry” is a determined politician looking to gain some headway in the elections by sabotaging his component’s campaign – leading to instant karma.
The idea of consciousness evolving to become one integrated organism much like the many stars held in the bowl of the sky is always a gorgeous concept and Waite explores it in layers, never spelling it out for his readers, rather giving them a taste of an illustration to connect the dots (excuse the pun).
In “Red Bike”, a infinitesimal chance grasped means someone dies. In “Gator Girl”, a maybe to-be forgotten love affair that keeps going wrong is forever revered when an alligator appears mid love-in.
The following stories are way “curiouser”, and I enjoyed them a lot. Seafaring themes with porpoises and mermaids rounds off the book and I finished wanting more. As one of Waite’s characters, Amalie says, “Can I come along? I love mysteries.”
I would say the only issue with this book is that it isn’t entirely spell checked and proofed. Some characters’ names change spellings in the first story and there are odd spaces and punctuations all over the place that shouldn’t be there. It’s a shame because this book could be up there with any other short story book if not for this issue. Admittedly, as I have just written in my blog on here, it is extremely difficult to make a self-published book perfect, and even “Lord Of The Rings” is expected never to be published 100% .
As for the tone of the book, it is an original style with a hint of Kerouac’s misogyny in his male-female relationships and somehow a little F Scott Fitzgerald’s in his capacity for descriptive phrase; not sure where that came from, but it’s true.
A nice weekend or commuter read for anyone looking for something different and quite exciting from a writing point of view and a touch of intrigue from the profound perspective of this book’s imagining.
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About Cate Baum
Cate Baum is a filmmaker and writer of self-published book “The Bull and The Ban” (under the name Tosko) and contributed to "Ole!", a book about 21st Century attitudes to bullfighting with Ernest Hemingway's grandson John and New York Times writer Edward Lewine. She is also editor and co-founder of Filmmaking Review, the sister site to Self-Publishing Review. She is married to SPR founder Henry Baum and lives in LA.