Book review: Prodigals by Greg Jackson


Stories by Greg Jackson

With declaratory language succinct as to appear insouciant, Greg Jackson thrusts us into his inner worlds in Prodigals. The first short story, Wagner in the Desert, seems to be semi-autobiographical and tells the tale of a mélange of friends partying as hard as they can and discovering mystical things out of the ordinary. Sometimes, however, the characters posture too much and Jackson’s language slows the action to a complete halt as we titillate over a twisted sentence gone rogue:

“Walking now with Eli, feeling just a hair better, that whatever happened I would not die that night, that I could follow some twisting course of multivalent inebriation to the torch lit inner sanctum of the self-subsuming mood, where the need to make decisions would end, and he need to evaluate decisions just made would end, and I would exist in a sort of motiveless, ethereal Dasein (in Hegelianism) existence or determinate being; (in existentialism) human existence), I was feeling a bristling love for my friend, who hadn’t said a word to me in five minutes, showing, in the understated way of competitive men, that our friendship transcended his need to sell other people on a garish idea of his life, that we could be quiet together and find peace in each other for the simple reason that we could offer each other nothing else.”

Jackson, no lie, is a genius in his aberrant language and shoots from the hip, although I prefer the Raymond Carver school of showing better. Just my personal preference.

To continue however, as we follow the narrator in his desert angst with these people he has tuned into at the moment, we hear of his loneliness and disconnection at their lack and his of vulnerability.

“But it’s also possible that I was losing my mind. It was day three, as I said, and the wheels were beginning to come off. Lily and I had made out for a while in bed the night before, humping a bit halfheartedly before she sent me away to sleep by myself – and I had felt grateful, because this way I would actually sleep and wouldn’t have to wake up next to her tired and noisome with a monomaniacs erection.”

As his theme of alienation courts his sharp as cheddar language, we offer up our thanks for a voice as genuine and crisp as Jackson’s, for with all of his faults, he is a writer that contains us and we wear his language like a fine jeweled bracelet.

This boldness translates into stories that tingle. A filmmaker leaves New York in the midst of a terrifying storm with his (we think) therapist. A lawyer goes to his wife’s cottage (she is divorcing him) and a girl is there instead. A journalist finds himself in the middle of strangeness when he visits a tennis pro in France. Outliers, strangers, friends and mutants all consider Jackson a wordsmith, as do we. This compilation of contemporary short stories shines bright with originality, innovation, emotion, and once or twice, a sentence a tad too long and a dangling participle.


  • We received a copy of this book for review.
  • Prodigals: Stories is available on

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