Iceland is a story that’s especially poignant because of the current economic trouble plastering every newspaper and television news channels. While all the financial talk can seem like distant, theoretical problems to some people, Mark SaFranko’s short story humanizes the situation by focusing on a single man as he spirals towards self-destruction.
Cal, the protagonist, begins his dive towards despair when he loses his job which also triggers a rise of tension within his family who he starts to approach with a mix of apathy and contempt. Cal simply can’t get a break and is slowly being driven to the edge by all that is unfair in his world: his coworker who keeps his job because he can’t afford to take a pay cut; his mother-inlaw’s husband who Cal thinks is the most grotesque man when he’s eating at the dinner table; his wife’s overspending to keep Cal’s unemployment a secret.
SaFranko’s story is a bit of a cautionary tale. The common goals of the modern man-a job, wife, kids-can turn out to be the very things that lead one to nihilism and misanthropy when things start going wrong. More important, however, is the fact that Cal’s own frustration with the world feeds his anger, culminating in an embarrassing display of rage towards the end of the story.
A melancholic but fast read, Iceland is a well written, character driven story, that evokes empathy for your fellow man who’s down on his luck and could use all the sympathy he can get. (Terry Harjanto)
Chapbook, Mark SaFranko, Black Bile Press, ardentdreams.com/bbp, $5