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  • ★★★-3.5

Review: The Teeth of the Comb & Other Stories by Osama Alomar

Tears Without a Flame

The candle was astounded to see the widow weep for her recently deceased husband. 'How is it,' she asked herself, 'that her tears are pouring down but she has no flame on her head?'

I have very little experience with flash fiction and I'm happy to report that I quite enjoyed this collection of it. It takes a lot of skill for a writer to be able to evoke such specificity in both meaning and sentiment with so few words. I'd be curious to know how many pieces were written that didn't make the cut and how the order of works was decided.

Alomar's outrage is the spine on which the entire collection stands. His anger and frustration are palpable, yet lead to some of the softest and most lovely passages. Others, of course, are barbed, but that is their intent—to prick you in a way that will leave behind a small mark you won't forget.

Man and the Law of Nature

Man arrested the Law of Nature and put her in a diamond cage. He caressed her with his genius and mocked her with the products of his reason. To celebrate the occasion, he drank dozens of glasses of wine and fell down drunk, pulses of happiness settling in his heart. The Law of Nature snuck her hand over to one of the glasses and emptied it into her stomach down to the last trace of its perfume so that she might forget her prison. She grabbed a second and a third and a fourth. She lost her balance and weaved from side to side. She laughed and cried and vomited and beat her head against the diamond bars. She fell down, her forehead covered in blood. She mustered the remnants of her eroded powers and finished off the rest of the wine. She fell into the lap of death, and death held her close, hugging her and man together.

This is my favorite of the entries. The sensory details are perfect and the syntax creates the physical sensation of a downward spiral. I'm also intrigued by the sparing use of capitalization—why capitalize Law of Nature and not "death" or "man"? Does that change the meaning? In this case, if death is not personified, the image changes. It's not a woman falling into a physical lap; it becomes a much more pathetic picture. In that version, I'd imagine her splayed on the ground, alone, not clung to by Death, but by death itself.

Thanks, Grant, for the recommendation :)


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