I met Russell Mardell through our good friend, Antony Lane. AD tweeted about this friend of his who was going to be giving away copies of a new book to 5 of the people who tweeted a link to its Amazon page. Usually I wouldn’t bother with something like that but, for AD, I took the time to read the description. And then, since it sounded interested, tweet the link. I thought nothing more of it until I received a tweet from Russell asking where to send the book. That was in December. Due to school, work and illness, I didn’t have time to read much of it until last month.
Silent Bombs Falling on Green Grass is, simply put, the best book I have read in as far back as I can remember. I’ll admit that it took me several sittings to make it through the first 20 or so pages. Everything about them seemed a little wrong, including the way the words fit together on the page. It was almost uncomfortably foreign but in the long run that made it even more intriguing. I’m the kind of reader who tends to plow through a book, skipping anything that doesn’t seem pertinent. With Silent Bombs, it is impossible to skip anything because it is impossible to know what is an important detail from what isn’t. Skip the wrong details and you’ll be hopelessly lost, read them all and you may still be. I found it difficult to take my time and even more difficult to realize that these stories would not stand up to my analytical nature. Mardell does not hide behind a saccharine smile and therefore his intent is transparent in its analysis of the human condition and disregard of societal norms.
Silent Bombs in made up of twelve stories tied together by their setting, a town called Mewlish Lull. Four of the stories are “Notes from Mewlish Lull” and they provide a bit of cohesion to the narrative, although a couple of the other stories may have been connected as well. I sometimes found myself lost in the jumble of characters, though this fit the setting and sense that we are all lost and places like Mewlish Lull are stops along the way to finding ourselves. There is a general feeling about the human condition that there is a cloud to every silver lining, with just a bit of white peaking though. Some stories vilify humanity while others merely expose its weakness, the reason behind the wall built to defend us from our feelings. Most of the stories are sparse in dialogue while one is completely made up of it. Inconsistencies like this add the kind off-kilter charm that would often be tossed aside by a publisher in the process of fitting a rather oblong story into a staunchly square box. They are a testament to the benefits of independent publishing.
Mardell deals in the dynamics of human relationships in the same way the Twilight Zone did the dimensions of time and space. His stories have a honest reality to them but everything is slightly off, just a bit more jaded. The characters feel like people you know but often wish you didn’t. They say the things we want to but can’t allow ourselves in polite conversation. Mardell does what Carolyn Chute has been touted as doing in showing the less-desirable’s point of view only with a far superior mastery of the language and an awareness of the mask of normalcy. Silent Bombs is not normal, ordinary or plain. It is strange, quirky, offensive and hilarious. This is not a book that everyone will enjoy but, for the right reader, it is an escape from the mass produced and homogenized “literature” we are practically force fed these days.