GEEKS, MISFITS AND OUTLAWS edited by Zoe Whittall (McGilligan Books), 328 pages, $22.95 paper. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
the genius of the idea behind an anthology about Geeks, Misfits And Outlaws lies in one simple fact: outsiders are observers. The freaky folks on the fringes spend a lot of time watching the rest of the world and waiting - à la Heathers - for their moment to strike back.
That marginalized perspective on the details of day-to-day life is why so many weirdos make such excellent art. And that's why editor Zoe Whittall deserves props for dreaming up a collection that chronicles otherness and oddballs.
The narratives here are vivid and diverse, from the girls who become elementary school pariahs for wearing the wrong jeans to rebels who dwell on the borders between races and genders, from bad mothers to criminals and addicts. Whittall includes a similar range of writers, from established cult-lit stars like Michelle Tea, Camilla Gibb and Sky Gilbert to local spoken-wordsmiths and unknown poets like Trish Salah, Hadassah Hill and Tara-Michelle Ziniuk.
What's most impressive is the overall quality. Anthologies are hit-and-miss by nature, but even the weaker selections here shine. While Reasons To Waitress, a story from early in Marnie Woodrow's career, misses the boat, you can see how much she's evolved as a writer since then. Kathryn Payne's imagined "monologue for cellphone on streetcar" is a cute idea that doesn't work on paper.
But the highlights are thrilling. The 20-something slackers in Emily Pohl-Weary's Dangerous Places are so real you'd swear they're the roommates you've yawned groggily at over breakfast in a student hovel. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha turns dizzying linguistic somersaults in her sex, drugs and punk rock reminiscences of being a brown girl in a white-bread college town in the early 90s. The platonic poetic love dialogue between Lynn Crosbie and R.M. Vaughan that kicks off the collection is achingly affecting.
You finish the anthology feeling like you've been granted membership in the hidden clubhouses and secret societies of forgotten superheroes on the outskirts of society.
Although Geeks would benefit from more copy-editing (you have to suffer a slew of typos), the voices of the writers themselves demand to be heard and recognized.
Whittall launches Geeks, Misfits And Outlaws at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre on Friday (December 12). See Readings, this page.
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