MEET ME IN THE MOON ROOM
Small Beer Press / 253 pages / 1st edition (July 1, 2001)
There are some writers who consistently surprise their audience — M. Night Shyamalan, Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, spring to mind — but these are “kid stuff” compared to author Ray Vukcevich. Anyone who can read the opening lines of a Vukcevich story and predict the outcome has either cheated and read the ending first or actually has ESP, because there is no other way they could figure it out. Quite simply, no one else’s mind works like Vukcevich’s and we are helpless to resist his allure (so, apparently, were the Philip K. Dick award committee).
Putting his stories in a collection like this is almost unfair; Meet Me In The Moon Room is a magnet and we are helpless iron filings.
All right. Put all of your expectations and preconceptions aside and get ready for literature such as you never imagined imagining. Just, for instance… let’s see… the opening sentence of “Mom’s Little Friends”: Because he wouldn’t understand, we left Mom’s German shepherd Toby leashed to the big black roll bar in the back of Ada’s pickup truck, and because Mom’s hands were tied behind her back and because her ankles were lashed together, we had some trouble wrestling her out of the cab and onto the bridge. Uh oh! Redneck revenge scheme? Gory plot to wrest control of the family fortune. Pods in the basement? You are so far off you’ll need a Sherpa to find your way back to the story.
Reviewing Meet Me In The Moon Room is a case of an embarrassment of riches; every story replaces the one preceding it as the best, the favourite, the most stunning. But, some gems do stand out even in this heap of emeralds. Take the wry, absurd “A Holiday Junket” and “My Moustache” — two short, almost silly stories with an edge hidden under the laughter.
Love, in Vukcevich’s world, is more often than not hand-in-hand with madness. Certainly, Josh, the protagonist of “Message In A Fish” has taken a permanent leave from reality. Of course he has. Such things just don’t happen… in the real world. And Selena can tell you that age is no barrier to the lunacy of love, lust, and longing in “There Is Danger,” but it might not be safe to ask.
Reading Meet Me In The Moon Room sometimes brings the reader bungee-jumping dizzily back to childhood. Every child goes through that phase where closing their eyes makes them “invisible.” Maybe the characters in “No Comet” and “In The Refrigerator” skipped that stage, because they are living it out now. If you can call it living.
I could sit here all day, pulling out titles and examples, but it wouldn’t convey to you the inspired dementia that is Ray Vukcevich’s fiction. You’ll have to read the collection yourself to feel what it is to never know what the next page — hell, the next sentence — will be. Authors with this kind of untethered imagination come along once in a generation, if we are that lucky.
Read Meet Me In The Moon Room and join me: a Vukcevich admirer and helpless iron filing.