Cover Art by Laura Givens
Next to discussing this author’s quality of work, that J.R. Hamantaschen continues to steadily produce pleasingly bleak fictions amid (or perhaps due to) the backdrop of social-media neediness is to be commended. In his collection, A Deep Horror That Was Very Nearly Awe, Hamantaschen, with an almost prosecutorial execution, submits fictions containing themes familiar to his fans; but this most-recently revealed cache of stories (eleven in all) is a bit more resilient in their aesthetic and tangible in their approachability.
Along a literary landscape which, in some ways, has become distorted by the online channels of gnathonic, echo-chamber transmissions, Hamantaschen’s tales—devoid of a simpering sentimentality so prevalent in those interweb mediums—remain untinged by the typically mundane anchor of social-media activity, and reflect an admirable variety of isolation.
That said, Hamantaschen invests energy to, and capitalizes on, focusing on (what would otherwise be considered) the mundane—those day-to-day interactions which most dismiss despite possessing a prism for our multiform realities (case in point: the story “No One Cares But I Tried”); and though I wager he’s knee-deep in the daily fray, A Deep Horror… budges very little when it comes to giving in. “He usually didn’t like people looking at him dead on,” writes Hamantaschen in one of the pieces; but that’s precisely how the writer scrutinizes his subjects.
A few of these fictions are lengthy and contemplative (this volume contains a sturdy, novella-length study, Faithfully and Lovingly), and several pleasantly strain convention. “7099 Brecksville Road, Independence, Ohio” is a meta-exercise in set-up which has a pay-off punctuated by a “back-to-the-drawing board” relent in this drudgery of thankless creation.
One of the more scalpel-sharp stories is the opener, “Rococo Veins and Lurid Stains,” which casts several regret-dwelling characters who—throughout several colorful exchanges—are plotting some sort of, well…exchange. Cautious of exposing too much of the tale, there exists in this piece a sort of literary loop, a “chain”: “You don’t come back as who you were before,” a central character suggests. “You probably come back as something else and it’s doubtful you’d have any real memory of who you were before.”
My nits include several layout-formatting, general editing throughout the volume, and a number of distracting POV jumps (particularly in “That’s Just the Way Things Are These Days”). But audience members aren’t reading Hamantaschen for these reasons. Rather, it’s something more innately unique.
Aside from a bleakly acerbic sense of humor, the most compelling characteristic to Hamantaschen’s work is his voice. Not unlike certain moments in life which bear the potential of developing into indelible vignettes, Hamantaschen’s resonant voice emerges in unlikely moments: a stylistic mechanism within his narratives which seamlessly serves to insulate an unnerving scenario—the scenario, in many cases with J.R. Hamantaschen, is simply existence.