Book Review: Love and Other Monsters in the Dark by K. B. Jensen
K. B. and I used to run a writing group together in Chicago. When you run a writing group, you encounter a phenomenon that probably happens in all art, but few people talk about it. (I’ve pretty much only heard magician and juggler Penn Jillette discuss it at any length.) That is, to say, sometimes skill and humanity are opposing forces.
When you start writing, you are completely exposed. Everybody’s early stuff is “this is who I am, this is how I feel, and this is what I like.” (It almost turned into the song “Torn” for a second, but I managed to course correct.)
The problem with this is that most people don’t start out having interesting things to say or the ability to say things in interesting ways. Sometimes they can’t spell or lack a basic familiarity with grammar, as well. Their art is just their big messy heart there up on the stage.
As skill develops, one gains the ability to hide one’s heart, little by little. The work gets better, but more impersonal. It’s the difference between Ed Wood’s Bride of the Monster and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. It’s the difference between “I Like Yellow Things” and “Run the World (Girls).”
I do all this preamble, just to say that K. B. is a skilled writer, and this book is very much K. B. This is her sticking a pen in her heart and bleeding all over the stage. This is the balance of skill and humanity. I watched her develop some of these tales years ago. I can’t not read these stories in K. B.’s voice. Even reading the title, “Love and Other Monsters in the Dark” I couldn’t help but thinking, “yeah, that’s K. B.” (We hosted a reading together a few years back called “Love and Horror and Everything in between.”)
However, I will say this: This book is a betrayal. K. B. Jensen should know that I’m the short story guy in our writing group. And, doing no research on the subject, I’m pretty sure that I was the first writer to come up with the idea of collecting short stories into one book. She also uses other ideas I had like, “setting a story in space” and “having a monster in the story.” Did K. B. think that I wouldn’t notice? I can’t believe that she’d rip me off like that.
Anyways, I guess I’d still recommend this book of 42 short stories. (My last book had 250 stories; no big deal.)
BOOK AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND EBOOK JULY 2022