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Book News

'Stories' offers hysterically appealing humor

'Stories From the Tube'
by Matthew Sharpe

Villard, $22

Review by Anderson Clifton

Web posted on: Friday, March 19, 1999 12:30:22 PM

(CNN) -- Advertising is magic; what we perceive distorts that which exists, as that which exists distorts how we perceive. In an original collection, author Matthew Sharpe weaves the magic of advertising in the form of 10 unique tales drawn entirely from a writer’s most uncommon reactionary imagination with society’s most familiar and rehearsed text -- the television commercial.

"Stories From the Tube" reads like a "Canterbury Tales" for the modern-day ad age in which Sharpe manipulates his own perceptions of the advertising medium known as the television commercial. What remains is the composition of 10 uncanny short stories rooted in the furthest recesses of his mind. Dark and light, subtle and abrasive, Sharpe excels in the portrayal of the mundane world observed by millions during Super Bowl breaks and "Seinfeld" reruns with an Ernest Hemingway-esque eye for character development surpassed in scope only by an intense attention to dialogue, well wrought and tight in its construction.

Hysterically appealing in its humor, Sharpe conjures up entirely different, entirely wicked, and entirely shocking scenarios that call outwards from his pages to the emotions in the same subtle manner as a slap in the face. At times as pointed as the inquisitive observations of a middle-school child, these surreal accounts and unforgettable depictions of characters living their sordid, everyday lives hint to thoughts that the author may have played an active role as a first-hand observer, in actuality taking part in the travesties, conversations, and demise of his characters.

Sharpe spares no expense in his storytelling; from the disillusioned Marilyn Monroe mimic in "The Woman Who" who "speaks in aphorisms ... during her love affair with life," to the pot-smoking "Yiddish-inflected, Sherlock Holmesian" grandmother acting as a backboard to the independent thoughts of a 12-year-old grandson in "Rose in the House."

As he twists his observation of a mother speaking on behalf of a cough medicine into the horrible tale of a mother revoked of her medical license and yet continuing to illegally operate on her ten-year old son, "Doctor Mom" will attest to the fact that Sharpe has observed the average and created the morbid.

Seldomly does a book come along where even the most avid of readers can simply pick it up and read from wherever the pages open, and not only be fully engrossed, but totally entertained. "Stories From the Tube" is such an entity.

Emotionally appealing, attractive to the senses, at times disturbing like a Quentin Tarantino tale, "Stories From the Tube" is an entertaining and insightful read.

Anderson Clifton is a graduate of the University of Georgia. He currently resides in Atlanta where he is the media director for an advertising firm.

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