Brendan Connell's Pleasant Tales was published by Eibonvale Press in November 2017.

Information about Brendan Connell:

Brendan Connell was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1970. He has had fiction published in numerous places, including McSweeney's, Adbusters, and the World Fantasy Award winning anthologies Leviathan 3 (The Ministry of Whimsy 2002), and Strange Tales (Tartarus Press 2003). His published books are: The Translation of Father Torturo (Prime Books, 2005), Dr. Black and the Guerrillia (Grafitisk Press, 2005), Metrophilias (Better Non Sequitur, 2010), Unpleasant Tales (Eibonvale Press, 2010), The Life of Polycrates and Other Stories for Antiquated Children (Chômu Press, 2011), The Architect (PS Publishing, 2012), Lives of Notorious Cooks (Chômu Press, 2012), Miss Homicide Plays the Flute (Eibonvale Press, 2013), The Cutest Girl in Class (co-written with Quentin S. Crisp and Justin Isis, Snuggly Books, 2013), The Galaxy Club (Chômu Press, 2014), The Metanatural Adventures of Dr. Black (PS Publishing, 2014), Cannibals of West Papua (Zagava, 2015), Jottings from a Far Away Place (Snuggly Books, 2015), Clark (Snuggly Books, 2016) and Pleasant Tales (Eibonvale Press, 2017).

Information about Pleasant Tales:

According to inductive process, the more weed someone smokes, the more likely they are to eat a green apple. Billy Glandzk has been smoking too much pot and hates apples, so it’s time for him to change his lifestyle. Justin Isis lives in a single tiny room in Ikebukuro but, through amore and refined fashion-sense, hopes to rise to higher spheres. Ricky Fishback is a bicycle cop who has spent too much time in the saddle, and his restless sex life is taking a turn for the worse. Can he get his mojo back? Carla Jo Arduini works at the Family Dollar Store, but her aspirations go higher - much higher. Will her faith guide her to success?

In Pleasant Tales, a contrasting follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2010 collection Unpleasant Tales, Brendan Connell has written ten unusual and colorful stories of contemporary life. The brittle and deranged mundanity that surrounds us is viewed through a lens that is both extremely perceptive and ever so slightly flawed, resulting in both an inverted projection of the familiar and a dose of the alien. These are modernist, sparse and slightly subversive expositions on the normal that perform a disjointed dance with the world you thought you knew.

A REVIEW OF BRENDAN CONNELL'S PLEASANT TALES

Brendan Connell's Pleasant Tales is a highly enjoyable and conrasting follow-up to the 2010 collection Unpleasant Tales. This collection contain ten stories about contemporary life filtered through a quirky lens.

Before I begin to analyse and review the contents of this collection, I'll mention that I consider Brendan Connell to be one of the most talented authors of our age, because he has his own unique writing style and he dares to experiment with literary fiction by combining it with speculative fiction and then he spices up the combination with absurdity, strangeness and unexpected happenings. His fiction is wonderfully marked by good prose, twisted events and intriguing plot twists. I like his way of examining life and people in a skewed way. This collection proves how good and talented an author he is, because it contains brilliantly written stories.

Readers who are familiar with Unpleasant Tales will find a lot to enjoy in Pleasant Tales, because it's a companion collection to Unpleasant Tales. This collection is, however, different from Unpleasant Tales, because it's kind of like its opposite, but there are a few similarities between these two collections that fans of the author will be able to recognise.

This collection defies easy classification, because Brendan Connell offers his readers slightly quirky and twisted stories about modern life. The contents of this collection fall somewhere between literary fiction and speculative fiction, because some of the stories have distinct speculative elements.

It's possible that the contents of this collection may not be to everyone's liking, but that's just one of the things that makes it so special and unique. I think it's great that the author doesn't try to please everyone with his stories, but boldly writes about various things in his own way and delivers memorable and thought-provoking stories to his readers.

The stories in Pleasant Tales focus on modern individuals who struggle with their own lives and have problems related to relationships and work. The author writes well about their lives and also about the decisions they make. I find it fascinating that real-life people (Justin Isis, Quentin S. Crisp, Mark Samuels, Laird Barron...) appear as protagonists in some of the stories.

This collection contains the following ten stories and an introduction:

- Introduction: Inauguration of the Pleasantness (by Justin Isis)
- Green You and Green Me and Green Apples and Black Crows
- Lazy
- Sex Life of a Bicycle Cop
- The New Normal
- The Amazing House
- The Divinity Student (with Quentin S. Crisp)
- Lotus Flowers, Lotus Leaves
- The Doorman
- Love Charm
- The Giant Horse

I was pleased with all of these stories and found them highly enjoyable, because they're satisfyingly complex, entertaining and humorous. I enjoyed the author's way of writing about the characters and their lives, because the happenings were genuinely intriguing.

Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:

Green You and Green Me and Green Apples and Black Crows:

- A story about Billy Glandzk who has smoked lots of weed and hates apples. His friend, Raymond, tells him that the more weed you smoke, the more likely you are to eat a green apple...
- Billy is a bit different kind of a character, because he works for Idollatry, a sex doll magazine, and has sex with his trim blonde sex doll, Plock Plock. When he has a haircut and meets Kimberley, his life begins to change.
- I enjoyed reading about what happened to Billy and how he began to turn a new leaf in his life by accepting a new job and getting into a relationship, because his life seemed to change as if by magic.
- This is an excellent and thought-provoking story about change and growth.

Lazy:

- In this short story, Butterscotch is a space scheduler at the University. One day, when he comes, he notices that the dishes haven't been washed. He tries to make Toby, who lives with him, do the chores...
- It was interesting to read about what Butterscotch did to Toby. I won't reveal what happens in the story, but I can say that Butterscotch's plan is slightly twisted.

Sex Life of a Bicycle Cop:

- Ricky Fishback is a bicycle cop. His sex life has been great, but suddenly things began to slow down. One day, while doing his duty and giving a ticket to a man for parking in a handicap spot, Ricky injures his back. One of his buddies on the force, Dan, tells him that he needs acupuncture, so Ricky goes to see Dr. Lo...
- It was intriguing to read about Ricky's work as a bicycle cop and how he met ladies and had sex with them. It was also interesting to read how he avoided getting into relationships.
- It's great that the author writes boldly and unflinchingly about things related to sex.
- A fascinating and well written account of a bicycle cop's sex life.

The New Normal:

- In this story, Justin Isis Isis teaches English to the Japanese and has a single tiny room with no furniture in Ikebukuro. One of his pupils, Miss Shimazaki asks for a private lesson and he agrees to it. Soon he finds out that his pupil is interested in him...
- In my opinion, this story is a prime example of how to write an amusing and entertaining story, because everything works perfectly from start to finish. There are no weak moments in this story.
- I enjoyed reading about what Justin found out about Miss Shimazaki's husband and his business, because he used to worship him as a teenager.
- It was fun to read about how Justin's life changed and what happened to him, because all of a sudden he found himself in a powerful position. I have to mention that the scenes involving Flaubert's penis are simply brilliant.

The Amazing House:

- In this story, the protagonist tells about attending a party in an amazing house and what happens there...
- This 4-paged short story is a fantastic curiosity, because it has been written as a single sentence from start to finish. This storytelling technique works well in this story.
- The author explores fascinatingly what kind of consequences judging people can have.

The Divinity Student (with Querntin S. Crisp):

- In this story, Mark Samuels has problems paying the rent. When he goes for a morning walk, he walks by Credentes Baking Co. where people are dressed in black gowns and have large yellow crosses suspended from their necks...
- This story was already familiar to me, because it has been published as "A Bad Un to Beat vs. The High Gate: It's All About the Benjamins" in the Marked to Die: A Tribute to Mark Samuels anthology. It was intriguing to read it again, because it's an excellent story.
- One of the main reasons why this story is good and amusing can be credited to the fact that the collaboration between Brendan Connell and Quentin S. Crisp has resulted in an inventive and whimsical story that is something different. The authors have clearly done their best to write a memorable and entertaining story.

Lotus Flowers, Lotus Leaves:

- In this story, Cassidy and his friends - Evan, Cindy and Trevor - are at Cassidy's house. Cassidy asks his friends if they believe in past lives. When they decide to go eat Chinese food at Luweeh's Kitchen, they notice that the tires have been slashed and can't go anywhere...
- This is an interesting story about people who spend time together and smoke joints. The author explores their actions with surprising precision.

The Doorman:

- A story about Carla Jo Arduini, who works as an assistant store manager at the Family Dollar Store. Carla's real ambition is to be a novelist. She's working on a novel called The Doorman. She firmly believes in God and in His guidance. When her husband tells her that she should find a publisher and the store manager also gives a useful hint to her, Carla knows what she has to do...
- I found this story highly enjoyable and amusing, because Carla saw the author Laird Barron as an instrument of the Lord. (I have to confess that this story made chuckle a lot.)
- Although this story is short, it has quite a lot of subtext.

Love Charm:

- Liam Stoltenberg visits the library in order to find a spellbook. He's interested in finding a love spell, because he wants Amy to love him. Soon he finds an old book, which contains spells and strange recipes...
- Liam's feelings towards Amy are explored well, because Liam is in love with Amy and resorts to using a spell to get what he wants. The author also writes about what kind of feelings Amy has towards Liam.
- A fantastic and well written story about love, spells, infatuation and unexpected happenings.

The Giant Horse:

- A well written story about Brendan Connell, who is tired of writing "pleasant" stories. When he decides to get out of the house, he meets a fellow author called Jim Whitefather. Jim tells Brendan about his new story, which is a Kafkaesque pulp piece...
- It was fun to read about what was mentioned about the werewolf story with two gay men as the protagonists, because it was a bit unexpected.
- I find this story fascinatingly self-ironic.

As you can see by the brief descriptions above, these stories are not your normal kind of stories, but something altogether different due to their strange and unconventional contents. They're excellent entertainment for adult readers who want to read good and extraordinary stories, because they're spiced up with unexpected twists and intriguing happenings.

I was fully satisfied with the characterisation, because it works well in these stories. The author fluently creates realistic characters and tells of their lives and problems in a convincing way. Albeit some of the characters may be a bit quirky and peculiar, each of them feels real.

I like the author's prose and fluent writing style very much, because his fiction pulses with a beat of its own. His distinct writing style will please readers, because his descriptions are satisfyingly vivid.

Brendan Connell's Pleasant Tales is one of the best short story collections of recent years. I strongly urge readers to take a look at it, because the inventive and entertaining stories practically beckon readers to devour them. If you enjoy reading well written quirky stories, this collection should be at the top of your reading list. You won't regret reading it, because its contents will amuse and fascinate you in equal measure.

Highly recommended!

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