When Giraffes Flew, by Jeff Weddle
Review by Julie Carpenter
This collection of beautifully crafted stories is as compelling as a novel and just as hard to put down. The stories are about the boundaries – sometimes self-imposed – that make us human, even in the face of possibility or hope or whimsical chance. Weddle’s writing exposes the raw materials that confine his characters to their poor choices and limited circumstances with breathtaking accuracy. The power of the writing is demonstrated in the sympathy produced by following the trajectories of the stories to their surprising but somehow inevitable conclusions.
Each story is well-crafted but I especially like some of his ventures off the beaten path and into the inexplicable. A Simple Enquiry, She Finds Herself Dancing, An Ugly Monkey, Swarm, and, of course, the title story When Giraffes Flew, are all innovative in subject matter and writing style. But in all the narratives, immediate actions and sensations outline inescapable choices and the consequences that follow with the detailed eye of poetry – only what is necessary is present. This matter of fact style makes the more surreal stories feel completely plausible.
Weddle’s characters, as humans do, accept the lot that is given them and make the choices they have to make. In Running With the Dogs, for instance, the protagonist finds that stealing a car leaves him with an odd moral dilemma. He doesn’t spend too much time questioning the universe…he simply makes his choice. In several of the stories, Jeanie Leanie Shoots the Sewers, and Hot Sardines, for example, the characters play off each other, each decision rippling out and pulling another character into dilemmas they must react to without fully understanding. Weddle accomplishes this without unnecessary complexity or drama and makes the web of consequences seem real.
All of the stories invite multiple readings with close attention to detail, yielding, like poetry, more meaning as time goes by. The beauty of the prose and the quirky cover art should probably convince you to order the book for your shelf instead of just owning the kindle edition.
Order here from Poetic Justice Books and Arts