From the pen of a lesser writer, the opening of the novella, Terminal Vibrato, might have been a bit too unbelievable for a reader to stick with the story. A boxer and his trainer discussing the philosophy and foibles of human behavior and odd bits of history and trivia in between rounds of a boxing match? Yet, here it works to introduce the central character who must “rummage through his mind to keep from going stir-crazy”

Vibrato is defined as a periodic slow change in pitch and that is what happens throughout this novella as the boxer, after being knocked out during a fight and breaking his leg as he stumbles to the mat, ends up in the hospital for an extended stay. Out of sheer boredom, he attempts to engage the comatose patient in the next bed in conversation.

The boxer keeps up a running monologue; a stream of consciousness not unlike some of the passages in Joyce’s Ulysses. Not being a great fan of this style, I thought these passages went on too long and my interest in the story wavered. That interest was rekindled, however, when the patient in the other bed woke up and the narrator discovered that he knew the patient. The story concludes on another surprise that is well worth waiting for.

The first story to follow the novella is Preface to Something Important. Again I was bogged down in the stream of consciousness, but I hung in to the end, waiting for the same kind of payoff that was in the novella. It didn’t happen. To quote the Bard, this was “Much Ado About Nothing” and weakened what is otherwise a wonderfully crafted collection.

I especially liked The Immigrant and Independence. The former was an interesting contrast between a man who steps into wealth as his birthright and a man who earns his place from the bottom up. In Independence, Marion, who likens herself to a marionette, ruminates about the end of her marriage while working at an archeological dig site.

The author has such a poetic use of language it is easy to see why he has won so many awards, including the coveted Pushcart.  Consider the opening of Reginald Used the Subjunctive Today:  “Father O’Mallon looked up at Father Wilson, standing in his doorway, and like generals in a bunker receiving good news from the front, their eyes met with tired and weary satisfaction.” As it turns out, the two are generals of a sort trying to educate wayward boys in a post-apocalyptic world where there are only a handful of books. What a masterful way of introducing them.

Stanford Pritchard has worked for The New York Review of Books and The New York Free Press, and is a Rockefeller Fellowship recipient. He is a playwright, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his stories and essays have been published in Kenyon Review,  Wisconsin Review, New England Review, TangoNews, International Philosophical  Quarterly, and elsewhere. He lives in Middlebury, Vermont, and New York City.

Terminal Vibrato by Stanford Pritchard
ISBN: 978-0825305139
Publisher: Beaufort Books
Date of publish: Oct 31, 2007
Pages: 255     Price:  $23.00

Maryann Miller   Maryann’s Blog

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