James Magruder’s Let Me See It is Exceptional.

Posted on November 4, 2014
Filed Under Book Review, Strong Recommendation | Comments Off on James Magruder’s Let Me See It is Exceptional.

James Magruder’s short story collection, Let Me See It, is exceptional.  Mr. Magruder is a master at dialogue.  His stories are perfectly constructed.  And he has a literary style that is all his own:  minimalist, yet peppered with telling details  But what sets this collection apart is quite simply the way these stories are arranged.  By presenting them in this particular order Mr. Magruder traces the narrative of two gay men over twenty-one years. The result is the rarest of books:  a short story collection that is a genuine page-turner.

In the first story, “Tenochtitlan”, we are introduced to Elliott:  a boy who finds himself longing for a Latino classmate.  His gradual discovery of his own queerness parallels his questioning of his family’s arbitrary prejudices.  This is a classic American short story–complete with a climax that is both logical and shocking.

In the second short story, Elliott’s cousin Tom appears. Tom’s gradual queer awakening includes the realization that one of his main aspirations is to be the first in his family “whose given name you had to guess at because it wasn’t stitched onto a shirt pocket.”

As the book progresses these stories–and these characters–become more sophisticated.  So it is entirely appropriate that the last story, “Let Me See It,” is the most complex.  It is also the best.

Reading this collection of short stories is a journey through two decades of queer history.  It is a journey that is interesting, frequently humorous and surprisingly poignant.  I don’t want to reveal anymore, lest I give away too much of the ‘plot’ of this surprisingly suspenseful short story collection.

James Magruder’s Let Me See It is published by Triquarterly Books.


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