Ticonderoga Publications, RRP $29.99
The Finest Ass in the Universe is a collection of 26 wacky and frequently hilarious stories. Striding through such diverse topics as microbial pathogens and ancient tailors; special parrots and defeating counterfeiters, the tales are fast-paced and entertaining. The collection is global in scale and spread throughout history. The only unifying theme to the pieces seems to be the infinite, unexpected possibilities of the universe–though there are also a lot of tales revolving around food and digestion.
Tambour writes with confident good humour and fluidity. It would be inaccurate to say each story in The Finest Ass in the Universe takes your hand and pulls you into its world. Rather, each story dunks you headlong into the vortex of its world. Brief background explanations are all that are needed; many pieces start in media res and fill out details later, ensuring complete immersion.
Though fun, Tambour’s world can be a little exhausting. I say this as someone who does frequently tell people about my dreams, and who has been told that my dreams are interesting to hear about*, but each story is a little bit like reading someone’s dream. In many of them, anything is possible. I wouldn’t encourage attempting to read the book together–but this is often the case with books of short stories anyway. There is an intensity to a lot of short stories not present in novels, and this can be exhausting as a reader.
Tambour’s vivid descriptions and gift for accents and speech mannerisms are a delight. My favourite of all the pieces, though, which features a boy reincarnating as an eggplant, contains less dialogue but poses some piquing existential questions. Similar moments of odd profoundness are littered through the stories, and are a true delight.
The Finest Ass in the Universe provides twenty-six fun, bizarre and unexpected tales. It is unlike anything I have read before. Whether you’re a longtime fan of weird fiction**, or have never ventured into that world, this series of short stories will show you a good time.
By the way, in conversation with Ms Tambour at Melbourne’s Continuum, where I also received this review copy from editor and publisher Russell Farr, I promised to chase up information about microscopy and mycology. A mycologist friend of mine has suggested these resources: A fungi map, and this group. So interested persons might find that useful. And it also hopefully makes sense of the title of this review… somewhat***.
*Otherwise I wouldn’t probably tell people about them.
**There, a genre I do read.
***It’s a lyric from industrial music legends Skinny Puppy. It doesn’t have to make sense.
Correction: We originally attributed the editor and publisher to Jeffrey Ford. Jeffrey Ford wrote the introduction. The editor and publisher is Russell Farr.