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just some stuff i wrote: stories    by William Bell order for
just some stuff i wrote
by William Bell
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

William Bell wrote the excellent Forbidden City, about a seventeen-year-old's discovery that war is not a game in Tiananmen Square. In just some stuff i wrote, he gives us eight short stories, that show individuals isolated from (in many cases dysfunctional) families and communities.

In The "Scream" School of Parenting, a young woman goes home, depressed about losing an important part in the school play, to make her own birthday dinner - her parents show up late from important jobs, and leave early, interacting only at the surface. Behind their perfect home are boisterous, loud families in semidetached houses, 'munching hamburgers, sloshing down the beer, yakking and laughing.' Which is better? It's left to the reader to decide. The Staircase unfolds via a series of taped police interviews with high school students. We discover what happened to Akmed Khan from Bahrain, judged guilty of difference by the school clique. And in The Leaves in This Country, a lonely older woman's prejudices prevent her from seeing, and preventing, abuse that is under her nose.

Apollo and Dionysis strays into fantasy, as a young music/computer nerd accompanies his parents to Cuba and is there magicked into becoming his polar opposite. Window Tree shows the misunderstandings through which a young woman's crush on a male teacher develops and takes a nasty turn. In my favorite in the collection, Chumley, Vic is assigned to show an eccentric new student the ropes for a week, to complete community service he owes his principal - he's surprised to find himself, and his teachers, learning important lessons from Chumley. The Promise is a ghost story that develops through a series of emails from Cole (filming ghoul-rock videos in Edinburgh) to his younger sister Marci. A crisis of conscience changes his life's direction.

Finally, in Beer Can Man, Albert's mom cleans homes for a living. He and his Grandad collect beer cans and bottles from parks and roadsides. He's ashamed to hear men calling Grandad a 'Friggin' welfare bum. Friggin' beer can man.' There's a whole lot of food for thought and discussion in just some stuff i wrote, which looks hard at individuals isolated from their societies, and at the folly of assumptions about others, based on appearances.

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