June 8: “All the Shane Hintons” by Shane Hinton

Hey there, Story366! Nice to be blogging today. Karen is off on a writing retreat for a couple of days, meaning lots and lots of pizza, lots of loud music, and not a whole lot of pants. Kitty and bunny don’t wear pants normally, while me and the boys might need to scramble if anyone knocks on the door. It’s going to be that type of week here, and maybe some of the free-spirited, locker room vibe will rub off on my posts.

Not sure if that will happen with today’s book, Pinkies by Shane Hinton, out from Burrow Press. Hinton’s book—recommended by my pal Cate McGowan—might not have that underpants-and-takeout feel, but it certainly has a feel. Cate done good, as Hinton’s book is a find.

Pinkies isn’t a long book and Hinton doesn’t really write long stories. His stories are distinct, direct, and innovative, awesome concepts planted early, grabbing you right away. The first story, the titular “Pinkies,” is just an absurd gem. The protagonist’s wife is pregnant with a whole bunch of babies—that’s how the OB describes it, right before offering all kinds of parenting advice. One thing they need to do is get some python traps, you know, because of the python problem that’s emerged. Then that’s the story, the python attacks in the neighborhood, the baby mice, or pinkies, used in the traps. What starts as a story about fatherhood jitters turns into a story about wrangling your python … oh, wait, I just got it.

Hinton includes a lot of shorts in the book, too, including the second story, “Pets,” an inventory of the violent deaths of all the protagonist’s four-legged friends (also including  python—Hinton had pythons on the brain, I guess). Actually, I read a bunch of stories from the book, and they’re all good.

I’m writing about “All the Shane Hintons,” however, as it’s most like a story I’d write, and I’m egotistical like that. It reminds me of my story “Green” from Elephants in Our Bedroom, one of my personal favs, where a guy invites all his wife’s former lovers over for a weekend party. Hinton’s story employs Shane Hintons instead of past rivals, though, as his protagonist (who is perhaps Hinton himself) finds every Shane Hinton he can and has them over for a weekend. Writer Shane Hinton is much more thorough than I ever was, though, as he actually thumbnail-sketches all the Shane Hintons along the way. It’s a nice tough—I’m jealous of it—as we get more than just names, but two- and even three-dimensional characters. The party is on, and everyone named Shane Hinton is going to have a blast.

Because stories have conflicts, Hinton has to make one of the Shane Hintons evil, and the best way to make him evil is either make him a murderer or rapist or Nazi, and Hinton chooses rapist. Party-thrower Shane Hinton in the story makes contact with rapist Shane Hinton, but is sure to not invite him to the shindig. Good thing rapist Shane Hinton’s in jail … or is he?

I love the absurdity and weirdness of “All the Shane Hintons,” which in addition to my story, reminds me of that “30 Helens” sketch from Kids in the Hall, as well as some of the best work by absurdist masters like Barthelme and Borges. There’s the oddity of inviting all the Shane Hintons over—and them actually agreeing to come—writer Hinton is smart enough to make the story about something else, too, mainly an underlying plot about story Shane Hinton’s wife. Story Hinton bleeds self-doubt, wondering why his wife chose him out of all the Shane Hintons in the world. It’s not like she knew them, but still, this is what keeps him up at night, what incites the whole thing. These fears leadto a whole other group of themes and motifs of character and identity. Are other Shane Hintons better than he is at being Shane Hinton? Are they simply alternate versions of himself? Are all the Hintons put together, in his house, the most perfect and complete Shane Hinton? That’s a scary implication, because that means story Shane Hinton’s at least one part rapist. But those implications are there, and writer Hinton manipulates them oh so well.

I really enjoyed what I’ve read so far from Pinkies, Shane Hinton’s debut collection. I want to read more and will. I’m also putting out a call for more author suggestions: I might never have come across Pinkies if it weren’t for my friend Cate, so keep the suggestions coming, Story366 readers. Lots of days left in the year, lots of authors out there to discover.