Fungus of the Heart by Jeremy C. Shipp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fungus of the Heart is a short story collection that is rather aptly named. The stories do probe into the mysteries of the human heart, although their subjects are not necessarily human. However, they show emotions that humans would be intensely familiar with. The fungus part of the title represents the weird, strange, perhaps even unpalatable edge hinted at in many of these stories. I like that Mr. Shipp was able to capture that dichotomy between being a monster--so alien on close examination--and inside, so identifiable, nearly ubiquitous, like fungus is in our world.
Not exactly stream of consciousness storytelling, but quite free-flowing and non-linear story structure, often leaving me scratching my head mentally, trying to figure out exactly was going on in the stories. They begin and end at seemingly random moments, but there is a feeling of closure in most, at least for the moment. Not a full resolution, but enough conveyed to give the reader the feeling that whatever Mr. Shipp wanted told about that particular story ends up on the written page. Beauty might not be what Mr. Shipp was going for, but I did see beauty in these offerings. The open, honest emotions flowing through them, and the highly visual and sensory imagery appealed to me, although he does go to some dark places here. These offerings ponder the highs and lows of life: love, loss, war, rage, alienation, fear, identity, all those things, and more.
The imagination exhibited here was impressive. I would love to sit down with Jeremy Shipp and ask him what his source of inspiration is. How he is able to fearlessly put down on paper what must wander through his mind, and do it in such a way as to avoid pretentiousness. There was never that sort of feeling as I read. Merely honesty, a sharing of himself with the reader. That’s pretty brave and fearless, because people aren’t kind to each other when a person opens himself up to others for examination. I definitely admire him for doing this here.
Although I didn’t always ‘get’ the stories, I got them on an emotional level, and that’s what spoke to me as I read Fungus of the Heart. Mr. Shipp has a way with short stories that will lead me back to him, probably in the near future. I think fans of Caitlin R. Kiernan would like this collection.
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