Monday, July 14, 2008

Review of Jim Musgrave's The President's Parasite

The President's Parasite and Other Short Stories

By Jim Musgrave
CIC Publishers
304 Pages
ISBN: 0977650367

The President's Parasite and Other Short Stories is a rich collection of slice of life vignettes written with a melancholy flavor and a twist of dark humor in an easy-to-read conversational tone. Each story deserves a review of its own, but for this review I'll mention a couple of my favorites. However, if you read this and are hungry for more, you can get your hands on a downloadable sampler of his stories on his blog.

For this review, I thought I'd highlight a couple of my favorite stories:

Jim Musgrave's engaging characters in Remembering to Laugh opens a window into everyday life into the "invisible America" that no one wants to see. This story's protagonist is a Jewish woman who marries a blue-eyed, red-headed Irish cop much to his mother's chagrin. The story highlights the changing relationship of the mother and wife as the two women learn to work together when the father-in-law, a Viet Nam vet with Alzheimer's, needs to be cared for and the husband ends up in Iraq as a hostage. I could write an entire review on this story alone, and recommend it highly.

The Wager portrays a man who wins 117 million dollars in a lottery and bets his pastor that he can cause more trouble by trying to do good with his winnings than he would if he squanders it. If he doesn't, he'll give the rest of the money to the church, but if he wins the Pastor agrees to change the church into a Church of Satan. The pastor takes the bet. Talk about good versus evil! If you want to know how it plays out, you'll have to buy the book.

In my effort to keep my blog entry short enough you all will read it, let me say that the short story IS NOT dead. Jim's stories vary enough that there's no one marketing umbrella formula that can lump them together other than original, creative and thought provoking. His work affects the mind in a subtle way, much like Twilight Zone. It entertains but grabs you and doesn't just let go until it threads into your mind and makes you think.

Bonus for my readers: Jim Musgrave will be my special guest today. Please leave a comment on today's blog and he will answer. You never know, I might pipe in there too. Not only will you enjoy such excellent camaraderie but when you leave a comment or ask a question, you'll be in the running to win a copy of The President's Parasite and Other Short Stories!

Amazon Link for President's Parasite: http://www.amazon.com/Presidents-Parasite-Jim-Musgrave/dp/0977650367/

Tomorrow's tour stop:

July 16 - http://undergroundcontroversy.blogspot.com/


Donna Sundblad – Author, Editor and Tour Coordinator
Author of Pumping Your Muse and Windwalker
www.virtualblogtour.blogspot.com – Get more information about virtual blog tours

14 comments:

joni said...

Good morning Donna,
I had to visit. I like it when I have the chance to win something and this book looks very intriguing!

I'm a Twilight Zone kind of gal.

Jim,
Two questions:
Are the stories all fictional tales or are they loosely based on true stories?


Do you have any advice for the up and coming writer? I think you’ll say persistence in learning the craft, but I think I’m asking is there any little secrets that we as ‘newcomer’s’ are not aware of yet?


Thanks in advance for your precious time,

Joni

Donna Sundblad said...

Hi Joni,

Jim will be here in a bit to answer your questions. Thanks for stopping by, it's always good to have you.

Donna

musgrave said...

Hi Joni,

Thanks for stopping by. Your questions are excellent. For the first, some of stories are directly based on actual events, and it's rather obvious when you read them. However, I make them fiction by taking the voice (or point-of-view) of a specific character to give the story a unique "feel." For example, I wrote a baseball story recently (not in the collection) about a Mayan woman who learns to through a knuckleball and becomes the first woman signed to a contract in the major leagues. I wrote it from the point-of-view of her agent, in the first draft, but an editor suggested I tell it from her viewpoint, and this worked a lot better! With real-life incidents (this was not real-life), the choice of narrator is extremely important to the story's impact.

Secrets? Since I'm a college composition and writing teacher, I must say "learn your basics first," meaning grammar, punctuation and spelling. The next best secret is to get a good "manual" of technique, such as TELLING LIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT, but Lawrence Block. Stephen King's book on writing, although entertaining, is really not a book on how one hones the craft.

Thanks, and keep on truckin'!

Jim

musgrave said...

Sorry for the spelling and missed words! My students are laughing their collective "arses" off.

Donna Sundblad said...

You know, Jim, if you don't mention misspelled words, most people don't even notice them on blogs. :) But I believe students may look at it all with a more critical eye.

One question I have for you deals with the fact that this is a collection of short stories. Did you write these stories with an anthology in mind, or did you have a collection of short stories in your files and decide to pull them together into The President's Parasite and Other Short Stories?

Oh, one more question...how did you come to settle on the title?

Donna

Art and Shirley Watson said...

Hi,

Visiting from WVU. The title of this book is certainly intriguing. How important do you think a title is?
I also liked your suggestion to "start in the middle" sometimes."

Shirley

joni said...

Jim,
I noticed the typo but wasn't going to say anything. :-)

I did like Stephen Kings, On Writing, but I learned more about him the man than I did WRITING.

What you're saying is I need to work on my grammar (my spelling is exceptional) and learn how to have fun telling lies?

I mean, Tell Lies for Fun and Profit?

Which is basically what we do as writers when we take a non-fiction tale, and spin a web of, intrigue, and call it fiction.

I await your answer to Donna!

Good one Donna!
Joni

musgrave said...

Hi Donna and welcome from West Virginia!

I collected the stories over 15 years and I chose the title because the stories seemed to fit my frame of mind after eight years of the Bush Administration. If people can find the "golden thread" that ties these stories together then they deserve an "A" for critiquing my work.

Donna Sundblad said...

Hi Jim,

I guess the thread would be your muse. Your work shows originality that is hard to find these days.

Donna

benning said...

I, too, am stopping by from WVU. Hi, Jim!

Do you find it more difficult getting your short stories published rather than longer works?

musgrave said...

benning,

I am also a publisher, so it's not too difficult either way. I have sold some stories to literary magazines and ezines.

Donna Sundblad said...

Jim,

Thanks for stopping by Anthology News and Reviews. It's been great to learn more about you.

Donna

musgrave said...

It was fun for me as well. Any buzz I can get about my book is okay by me! See you on the virtual book trail!

benning said...

Thanks, Jim! And thanks, Donna!

:D