Title: 50/50 and Other Stories
Author: Matthew McFarland
Genre: Short Stories
Review by Haley Verrin
This was an interesting read with often-luminous prose. The eleven diverse stories are well crafted, original and run the gamut from horrifying to hilarious. McFarland’s facility in getting into the heads of an old man, a young suitor and a marginal female loner is seamless and if his bio hadn’t given me some indication, I wouldn’t know his own age or gender.
The compilation starts with an unexpected ending to The Burning Bar in which we are given an impish nod to the old adage that things are not always what they appear to be. In Defenestration, the author again injects humor wrapped in dire circumstances as a man exits the balcony of a building not of his own volition. His thoughts on the way down are wry to existential.
Sense of place is firmly established with descriptions such as, ‘the pipe smoke wafting over the crammed terraces of Lansdowne Road, being driven by the cold March wind gusting between the high stands on either side of the pitch’. It doesn’t much matter that I’m not a sports fan as this roped me into the dimension of that time, that place anyway.
The only issue I had with the work is that sometimes the writer would use the same word, or a close form of it, in sequential sentences, momentarily disrupting the flow. This happened most often in the beginning of a few of the stories, which was unfortunate since getting sidetracked this way might make some miss the magic of the tales.
Other stories were nostalgic without being sentimental, such as The Bicycle, moving, as with Saints and Streetlights. The title story, Fifty/Fifty, is a sleeper that continues to bloom in my mind and so I continue to savor the offering.