It Is an Honest Ghost
John Goldbach, 144 pgs, Coach House Books, chbooks.com, $18.95
John Goldbach is smooth.
Easing us into this prose collection with a gentle meditation on longing Goldbach reminds us that carefully constructed stories still have room for some punch. I held my breath as I waited for a two-page long sentence to end, finally letting out my impatient breath as a laugh at the character’s final dedication to manners. I slogged through the same old, overreaching arguments about death in this work’s titular story that my university philosophy tutorials tortured me with, and was released by the bells of freedom I never heard, chiming “Okay, man, enough.”
As Goldbach’s words flow in and out of scenes, they swiftly work in those bolts you don’t process the first time around, and after the sting has faded, a realization emerges — his antidotes are expertly concocted. An annoying drink mate transforms into a caricature of casual racism, as worthy of ridicule as a beer in their face. This work’s contrasts focus on the good of the bad, and leaves behind the peculiar feeling of encountering sadness and accepting its place, like “Father Time, with his sandglass and sickle.” (Grace Bueler)