Benjamin, Larry. “Damaged Angels”, Beaten Track Publishing, 2013.
Thirteen short stories make up Larry Benjamin’s “Damaged Angels” and they all deal with some aspect of the “other”—“the invisible, the damaged: the drug addicts and hustlers, the mentally ill, the confused, and the men who fall in love with them”. For these men, the rest of the world is fine and they want to be a part of it and not marginalized by it. They live in the smaller darker world that is part of the other world and they are at a disadvantage just because of who they are. The love they explore is unlike the love explored by others for their world is dark and we learn via these stories that perfection has a plethora of meanings.
Each story the theme of being the “other” is looked at in non-judgmental ways which in itself is difficult. Have you ever wondered why he are afraid of the disabled and the homeless? Benjamin places us within each story and we are up-close observers to what happens. But we are a bit more than just observers—we taste and feel what happens in each story and in some, more than others. Benjamin has built some amazing characters and while they are not someone you would bring home to introduce to your family, they have something to say. We grow to know the characters and develop affection. Whether the author gives us camp and farce as he does in “Howdy, Billy. Cabbage, Ma’am” or a serious look at society in “The Hunger”, there is something here for everyone.
Benjamin’s stories show his diversity not just in subject but in length and perspective. Yet all show us a slice of life that we are probably not familiar with. There is eroticism, humor, surprise—and the volume is an excellently diverse experience. I want to know some f these characters better and I hope that I will be given that chance in Benjamin’s future writing.