Look! Look! Feathers
by Mike Young
Word Riot Press | December 2010978-0-9779343-6-2
Look! Look! Feathers has some rather bold blurbs. I read them before reading Mike Young’s book of short stories, in hope that they were true. They were.
Mike Young, who runs Magic Helicopter Press, has written a collection of short stories that is startlingly relevant to most in its modern audience. People you feel like you know, people who normally wear masks, appear demasked, breathing. Young has an eloquent way of rendering language both with an unmistakable style and without allowing his readers to miss what he means. He removes the metaphorical masks donned by his characters and lets you see the soul and breath of these very human people, not to mention their hearts. Everyone in Mike Young’s book has a heart, green blue or red, and you will find yourself as you read his stories of stories asking yourself what color yours is.
The strongest stories in this book depend on where your sympathies lie; this being said, perhaps they are all strong, and some just stand out to me more because I myself as a reader felt a deeper connection with their particular characters. Each story opens with a dense paragraph that inserts you into its particular world. You will come to find that they are all in this same world, but they each paint their own picture, throwing their town colors up in splatters of mural paint, pleading with their readers, the way hitchhiking punk teenagers secretly from the suburbs might: Look here! Pick me! And you will have never been happier in stopping your car.
“I realized for the first time they’d given us nothing to drink. Instead of glasses, we had tea candles.” This line, from the title story, is the line that lets me know that I have the right place, that I’ve correctly followed my Google Maps printed directions and have arrived in the world of Young’s stories. I can stroll the streets and let myself into the houses of his characters, but I must be careful, though not overly cautious. Hot wax is not a water substitute. Hot wax for water, paper towels for baby bump, tire park for river trash, Young’s characters are hunter-gatherers of the fiction world, trading any normal identification of themselves or their possessions for something both more interesting to us and more useful to them. High school metal bands are reunited in casino bathrooms and a windowed father joins facebook, to his daughter’s encouragement, rather than her chagrin.
Most of all, Mike Young’s collection of short stories should remind us why we like to read fiction. No, fuck that. Why we love to read, why we can’t live without reading, and maybe, why we write ourselves, if that’s something you do. They are fresh, unique and essential. They survive in a world so close to our world that we could swear we’ve been there. They are a déjà vu, one we don’t want to leave.
A character in “Restart? Restore?” says to a child playing a digital game, “You say one more foulmouthed thing and I don’t care what version that is, you’re going to your room and you’re reading a goddamn book!” and we chuckle at the hypocrisy, at our own hypocrisy. In the same story, a widower and father, Orrin, suggests “Art’s in the eye of the ardent.” This line, towards the end of the collection, I took as a reminder to the reader that one must be passionate about what one does, what one reads. Many a writer or artist will forget this in pursuit of recognition, too focused on the attention they’re not getting than on the emotion, the necessity of head and heart, that led them to create in the first place. In this excellent book of short stories, Look! Look! Feathers, it feels Mike Young never forgets this, not for a single word.