Sunday, December 20, 2015

[Review] Anatomy Lesson - Matt Spadafora

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"Anatomy Lesson" is a collection of eleven autobiographical short stories, all centered around the human body.

I'm not a short-story person. Especially not if they're autobiographical. To me, non-fiction can easily get tiring. So it's quite an accomplishment that I actually liked this one.

Vivid Imagery and Honest Writing: A Winning Combination
I have to admit that I needed a while to get accustomed to the writing style. Spadafora writes in very short, staccato-like sentences. If you're not used to it, it's very hard to get used to. I started skimming pages at first and then forced myself to go back because I didn't want to miss anything.

The first story isn't a great way to hit things off, too much monologue and too little direction made me put this book away and try again later. By the second story though, "Ears", a story involving bullies and sexuality, I completely lost it. I think it was a mixture of the writing and the way Spadafora is able to convey emotions that made me so angry and emotional, and - wow. By then, the deal was sealed. I didn't expect to like this as much as I did.

In general the book really benefits from Spadafora's extraordinary ability to convey emotion. I especially loved it when he just wrote the thoughts of the protagonist out in cursive, it just feels honest and real. I really liked that you can tell he isn't trying to alter the way things happened. Spadafora just knows how to set a scene. The images were popping into my head starting from there and to me it felt like the narration was getting realer with every story I read. Or maybe I just started to connect with the protagonist.

The biggest danger and mistake you can make when writing non-fiction is losing yourself in details. Spadafora chooses the topics he wants to talk about carefully and I'm actually amazed by how many interesting things a twenty-something has to tell. The more I read, the more I thought I wouldn't mind reading a contemporary novel about this.

Continuity Issues and No Common Theme

I'm not so sure what I think of the collection as a whole. There is not really a common theme to me, it just feels anecdotes, connecting through the body parts. Maybe that was the intention, but I felt really unsatisfied when I finished this.

I'm not a fan of time-jumps, flashbacks, and the like. My favorite books all stick to one timeline and therefore it really irked me whenever Spadafora jumps in time. Just when I grew to understand the Matt of one story, we jump five years back or forth.
I loved the continuity (ish) between "Heart" and "Hands", two stories about a crush on a girl. I feel like the whole collection would have definitely benefited from it all, had Spadafora chosen a common theme, and a set time line.

I would have loved for it all to tell a story, and to make sense in the end. Then again, they're short stories. This is why I usually don't read them, I like the feeling of knowing how it all ends, even if it's just about a chapter in the author's life.



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Usually I don't read biographies or memoirs, or any kind of non-fiction really, unless I have a special interest in the person who wrote it or the topic. I'm glad I tried this out. Short story collections are usually not for me, I'm not a short story person. Spadafora has a unique way to write that needs some time to grow on you, but when it does, it sucks you in. Combined with the strong character voice (obviously - because it's his own, *ba dum tss*), it's very entertaining.

I wouldn't advise to read this all at once, because I noticed that you actually have to think about the stories for a while to understand what it's really about. That's what I love about "Anatomy Lesson", it feels like a part of the authors soul has gone into writing this. It's genuinely honest. I wish more of the non-fictional autobiographies I read were written in that way.

I wholeheartedly recommend giving this a try, because it's a very honest approach to the trivial things in life. And yes, I want a sequel. I'd love a contemporary from the author. Even if it's not autobiographical, I think the voice is really intriguing and I think there is potential for more!

Additional Info

Original Title: Anatomy Lesson
Author: Matt Spadafora
Published: March 26th 2014
Pages: 136
Medium: Paperback
Publisher: Life Rattle Press
Cover: Life Rattle Press, 2014
Genre: Adult / Non-Fiction / Biographies & Memoirs
ISBN: 1927023696

"Anatomy Lesson is a collection of autobiographical non-fiction stories, each centred on a different part of the body. Stories range from humorous nights on the job to high school heartbreak, from physical injury to mental anguish, from embarrassing childhood mishaps to grappling with body image and bullying."
(Source: Goodreads)

 Can you recommend some good short story collections to me?

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