Kennedy, Theresa Griffin. “Burnside Field Lizard and Selected Stories”, Oregon Greystone, 2018.
Five Short Stories
Theresa Griffin Kennedy introduces us to quite a cast of characters in the five short stories that make up “Burnside Field Lizard”. I must admit that I am not much of a short story reader and that could probably be due to having to tech so many that I longer find pleasure in short reads. I was therefore surprised at how much I enjoyed these stories. What we really see here is a look at Portland, Oregon through the unusual characters that live there; people who are both damaged and insightful and who see so much more than we do. Our characters are the less privileged inhabitants of Portland who are marginalized by either gender, class or sexuality or even by all three. Writer Kennedy uses them to look at greater universal issues ultimately examining “what people are people willing to take from others in order to survive and what does it mean to be human in such a landscape”. There is something very gothic going on in Portland.
The stories are honest and they are sad and happy, sometimes at the same time. Kennedy explores the Portland that most are unaware of either by choice or not caring. Here is the sordid and seamy “underbelly of Portland’s dark side.” We see Portland as wet and dark, a place inhabited by broken people who struggle and are defeated and angry that there seems to be no place for them. But these same people have hope that will achieve redemption and/or salvation and that it is within reach. We see that there is humanity in all people, even among those that we pretend are not here and those that we choose not to see.
As I sat down to write this review, I had not yet decided whether to review each story separately or to review the book as whole. Summarizing each story as I usually do when I review anthologies often causes me to write spoilers thus taking away from the reader’s discoveries in the text and I would rather that each reader have the chance to form his own opinion. Kennedy is a new author for me and I am anxious to hear what others have to say about what she has written here. I personally enjoyed the read and I have never been to Portland and do not see myself getting there anytime soon. (It’s hard enough being a southerner in Boston where people make fun of my accent). I believe that this collection brings back the local color that was once so important in our literature but slowly disappeared. We all live in different places and we are all different yet as Kennedy shows us, we are united by humanity.