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Your Body Is Changing by Jack Pendarvis

Jack Pendarvis's second book, Your Body Is Changing is a collection of short stories (along with a novella) that together make for an enjoyable read.

Two particularly memorable short stories are "The Outsiders"  and  "Tollbooth Confidentail". The former takes place in a cafe. It has an interesting structure to it...the point of view is that of an elderly humor columnist who is waiting for his daughter in a cafe and hopes he sees something worth writing about. And that he does. He sees a conversation between a patron and a lady  who likes to "call people on their shit" and takes entirely too much pride in it. I'll not reveal how the situation is resolved, but if you like seeing people like that get their comeuppance (especially if it's in a very ingenious way), the story is worth reading.  It's worth the price of the book, and that's coming from someone who bought it in hardback.

"Tollbooth Confidential" is a story about an incredibly stupid  and irresponsible man who takes a job as a tollbooth operator and is asked by his boss to be a drug mule. Hilarity ensues. It is very dark and disturbing hilarity, but hilarity nonetheless.

The title novella is about a young fundamentalist Christian boy named Henry who lives with his mother, then is sold to an annoyingly hip art history professor, then goes on a long journey with a freelance fundamentalist preacher, and then takes up with a bunch of new age hippies.

It has a lot of enjoyable moments, but it's a bit cluttered, as my synopsis might suggest . It's not as cohesive as either of the extended pieces in his previous The Mysterious Secret Of The Valuable Treasure.

But even though it is less than the sum of its parts, a lot of the parts are good enough to make it worth reading. For instance, this observation made by the main character:

Secular humanists! Henry knew he must be near a state-run college where they tell you it's OK to have an abortion and draw the President looking like a monkey.

This is pretty funny, and there's also some unintentional irony. It was written during the Bush administration. If you drew the President looking like a monkey on a state college today, the speech code folks would be all over you like white on rice.

But there are some passages that are excellent in their own right. Such as this admonition from a performer who is annoyed that people in the audience didn't get his Mike Nesmith reference:

 Don't you people down here know anything? I'm from Motown, you. We know who Mike Nesmith is, okay? He made a little movie called Tapeheads? He played in a little band called the Monkees? Yeah, that's right we have this thing up North called  school, you might have heard of it.

One think I like about Pendarvis is he is at least as tough on hipsters and other cool folk as he is on southerners and Christians.

And I just fell in love with this sentence:

She smelled wonderful, like seasoned flour for fried chicken.


YBIC has it's flaws, but they're only noticeable  because it follows The Mysterious Secret Of The Valuable Treasure, which was an absolute masterpiece.
Taken on it's own, it's worth reading and quite enjoyable.