This review is taken from Stand 224, 17(4) December 2019 - February 2020.

Brian Swann, Dogs on the Roof  (MadHat Press, 2016)
Brian Swann, Not the Real Marilyn Monroe (MadHat Press, 2017)
Roberta Swann, Crack in the Door (MadHat Press, 2017)

Brian Swann’s Dogs on the Roof is a freewheeling, inventive miscellany of pieces. A jeux d’esprit, it offers absurdist, surrealistic short and very short stories as well as prose-poems. Its frequent one-pagers delight in exploring the quirks of quantum physics, neurology, psychology, philosophy, etymology, myth and literature, und so weiter. They burst with allusions to writers, artists and thinkers (the footnotes to a three-quarter pager, ‘Reflective’, cite Wittgenstein, Ecclesiastes, Coetzee, Wallace Stevens, and Montale). Swann has a fondness for outing ambiguities, paradoxes and questionable thinking. Consequently we are entertained, instructed and challenged, often simultaneously.

Swann’s stories are generally voiced by lonely husbands, harried ex-husbands, bachelors out of their element, white collar workers lost or transported by situations or characters on the madcap fringe of life. They are one with the man in ‘Discourse on Method’ who admits ‘for some time I’ve been feeling my life seeping out the edges, eluding me’. This character’s way of doing something about it is typically inconsequential, of course, his ‘game of intrinsic teleology for my walk to work’, an exercise in ‘peripatetic game theory of strategic decision-making’, involves looking out for ten attractive women each morning.

In ‘The Cyclist’the protagonist pedals away without forward motion since his chain is useless, but continues out of a desire not to draw attention to himself and, inevitably, draws ...
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