Looking to escape the holidays? Christmas is nowhere to be found in author Richard Burginís The Identity Club: New and Selected Stories and Songs [Ontario].
This collection of 20 stories explores the darker side of relationships, twisted ideas of love and perhaps most telling from the title, personal identity. Beneath these mostly weird tales are underlying themes of misogyny, repressed homosexuality, racial guilt, buried anger and all other forms of denied ugliness. Women readers may find themselves occasionally offended or even enraged at the mostly male protagonistís views on women; patronizing and creatures to be rescued at best, vicious manipulators, prostitutes and users at worst. The only thing that saves Burgin from the label of sexist writer is the fact that he seems to view his own gender with almost equal disdain, even as he empathizes with his monster literary creations.
In each and every story, Burginís opening lines command your attention and pull you in, and his metaphors are spot-on, unique and oftentimes beautiful in the face of this dark content. Heís a masterful writer, but probably too dark for any kind of mass appeal, despite his jacket cover design by Gloria Vanderbilt and thanks to his good friend, the prolific and popular writer, Joyce Carol Oates.
Donít read The Identity Club for stories of hope, connection or healing. Burgin is a hard and fast case for misanthropy. His world is a dark one; a world where we donít know ourselves well enough to trust others. Itís a world where, just below a politically-correct surface, men are pulsing with anger, humiliation and contempt and women are pathetic whores. Itís a world where most of us live and die alone, but given the company and the miserable excuse for ourselves, maybe thatís for the best.
A companion CD of music is included.