Please Don’t Be Upset and Other Stories

Please Don’t Be Upset and Other Stories, Brandi Wells, 102 pgs, Tiny Hardcore Press,, E-book $4.50, Paperback $8.99

Brandi Wells writes extremely short stories. Of the 15 in this disturbing collection, many are only two or three pages long, brutally graphic, and all are packed with disconnected, passive females and absent or disappearing males. The most unsettling aspect of
the collection is that all of the stories have first person female narrators, and all are told more or less in the present tense. Everything is a constant; there is no escape from the relentless now. Unfortunately, the e-book version contains a few errors that should have been caught by copy-editors or proofreaders. A good writer deserves good editing, and sloppy proofreading detracts from otherwise detailed work. It is Wells’ longer pieces (“Claim”, “Beautiful”, and “Thanks Again”) that stand out, as they allow for more definitive character and plot development. There are strong themes that emerge throughout: marriage, wedding rings, lack of female sexual gratification, death (see “Deer” and “Beautiful”), and relationship insecurity, deftly depicted in “A Dozen Notes to Ruben”, a story that could have been a sweet love letter, but instead becomes a paean to paranoia.
The most disturbing recurring theme is also the most frequent one: physical containment or distortion via physical dismemberment (“Changing Woman”), absurdist bodily contortions as in “Thanks Again” where the narrator describes crawling into a mailbox, or in “Contortionist Ballerina” where the narrator climbs into bags and increasingly smaller containers. In“Seven Things I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You” the narrator says “I want you to either make yourself so small you fit into one bottle or cut yourself into bottle-sized pieces. Having you in these bottles is the only way I can fully trust and keep you.” Wells is good at crisp, claustrophobic containment, and one cannot help but wonder what brutish literary depravity could be achieved beyond the confines of these bottle-sized stories.
(Carrie Schmidt)

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