Booker, Brian. ”Are You Here For What I’m Here For?”, Bellvue Literary Press, 2016.
Brian Booker’s . ”Are You Here For What I’m Here For?” is a collection of seven stories about characters that deal with some kind of trouble be it a rare illness, a chance encounter, sexual awakening, natural disasters and/or cults. There is an atmosphere of solitary isolation and surreal existence in the stories. Our characters are tormented by the past lives that they have led and their futures are not rosy, to say the least. Each of us is composed by our experiences and the way we think about things influences who we are and how we react. Our characters here are troubled and there is something surreal about how they think. Their perceptions are not the same as others and it is these perceptions that propel the stories.
In “Brace for Impact”, we see the inner life of a boy who spoke to a woman who survived a plane crash and this has a transformative experience on him. When he heard what she had to say, he was uncertain whether he believed her or not but whenever this was a bit of turbulence in the air, he would hear things that reminded him of that conversation. He would feel the floor drop and hear crashes and the metal ripping even if what happened was nowhere near where he was. Speaking to her instilled a sense of fear in him that was difficult to deal with. There is a sense of foreboding where the teenage narrator is in a strange house with a sexy classmate and her invalid mother. In “A Drowning Incident” we meet a boy who becomes very ill and is not sure what he imagines and what is real. The young boy who narrates his story suffers some narrator is caught in the middle of an encephalitis and this affects how he perceives things. We meet a hypochondriac is
“Are You Here for What I’m Here For?” who uses spiritual camouflage in order to trick fate so that death will not stop for her as she faces her fears at a resort.
In “The Sleeping Sickness,” we meet a physician who has transformed a landscape and then explores what he has done. exploring a landscape transformed. We see that nothing is ever what it seems. “Here to Watch Over Me” introduces us to a man in a remote lodge searching for his missing son in more ways than just one and learns that nothing is what it seems.
that might as well be in the same chain as the Hotel California. “Gumbo Limbo” allows the author to plunge us into psychedelia in the story about a coastal village that has become hysterical as an elderly pharmacist protects his adopted nephew. The last story, “Love Trip,” is a nostalgic look at a boarding school and the trials of childhood.
One reviewer described these stories as “the everyday meets the uncanny”. I found that even more uncanny is the author’s ability to write beautiful prose about not so beautiful thoughts. If there is an overall theme, it seems to me that it would be how to trust one’s own mind. Booker writes with wonderful detail and there were several times as I read that I stopped in order to read, reread and then read again some of the gorgeous sentences that we have here.
Booker writes about the borders of our personalities and experiences and memories. The characters are overtaken with disease, hallucination, anxiety and neuroses and as he does he presents wisdom about what is in our minds and what is not.