Saturday, October 01, 2016

These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories by Luke Mogelson (2016)

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more. what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

e.e. cummings

The title of Luke Mogelson's debut short story collection, These Heroic, Happy Dead (2016) comes from e.e. cummings' poem "next to of course god america i," and the irony in both works is that the experience of these veterans is often merely symbolic to those on the home front and very rarely heroic or happy to the ones experiencing it. In Mogelson's stories of servicemen at war and back at home, even if you aren't one of the dead, the impact of your service is tough to wrap around a civilian lifestyle.

These stories are well crafted with a pleasing diversity of structures and topics, while maintaining a constant focus on character, tight observations, and a good sense of dialogue. Small threads connect the stories in the book, making the collection tie together nicely as a discrete work, but without being too gimmicky or novelistic. While the characters and focus are overwhelmingly male, these are not overly-masculine stories and Mogelson gives us a lot more than the (sadly true) but overly familiar post-combat cliches. These are short stories that take every advantage of the form, and if you are a short story fan, this one is going to be a treat.

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