MENTAL SHRILLNESS by TODD RUSSELL
This collection of short stories, MENTAL SHRILLNESS is a very good example of abbreviated fiction at it’s finest. I’ll get to the book itself in a minute, but first I want to discuss Shorts in general.
Not everyone is a fan of short stories, but I tend to think that has more to do with what readers are used to (printable novel-length fiction) because that’s all Traditional publishers have printed for years. But I can see the tides a’turning, and if more authors of Mr. Russell’s caliber put these collections out there, I think readers will see that shorts are not “lesser” stories, they are just condensed. And much easier to read while your standing in line at the Post-Office.
In fact, writing a top-notch story is arguably harder to accomplish. There is much less real estate involved, and each and every word must pack the proverbial gut-punch. Think of it this way, if you asked to explain something in under 50 words or with a 1,000 word limit, which do you think would be easier?
Now, with that said, not all Shorts are created equal. It’s very hard to tell a compelling, complete story, and sometimes the overall story may suffer. That is not true with this horror collection from Todd Russell. His prose is as cutting and sharp as a scalpel, and he minces no time in drawing readers into his warped world.
Most certainly not for the faint of heart, MENTAL SHRILLNESS explores, in bite-sized portions, universal themes of betrayal, lust, mental illness, undying love and desire, with disturbing finesse.
I was disturbed by these stories, especially Pains in the Glass, Falling In Bobbitt and Death Warmed Over, though not as much as I probably should have been. Instead of personally being grossed out, I was sucked into as a silent observer, very much involved in the stories. I could see them, smell them, hear them- essentially this book played out like short episodes in my mind. I felt more than I read, if that makes any sense.
The last story The Illusion whispered faintly of a specific Nathaniel Hawthorne story to me, but I can’t tell you why without telling you how. So instead, I invite you to read the story and post in the comments what story you think I’m referring to (explain yourself please as well) and there might be a goodie for whoever gets it right first. I must warn you though, the connection is tenuous at best, and I may be inventing it completely, but I do feel even my imagined binding-thread speaks volumes for the high level of writing in this collection.
The included Author’s notes are damn-near as interesting as the stories themselves, and it’s not everyday that you get to hear the method behind the madness. So, if you feel brave enough, drop a trail of breadcrumbs behind you, grab a flashlight, and enter into MENTAL SHRILLNESS.