Thursday, May 24, 2007

Coat, by Joe Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale
Subterranean Online: Summer 2007

At its core Coat is a simple story: One man sees another man wearing an extremely unfashionable coat. The man wearing the coat was also wearing clothes which were the height of the current fashion, but not the coat. The coat was unfashionable and James, the first man, hates the coat-wearing man because of it. For no better reason than this glaring lack of fashion James becomes obsessed with the coat and with the man and feels a compulsion to confront the man for wearing that unfashionable coat.

In all of six pages Joe Lansdale tells a story of obsession, of a coat, of irrational emotional response, and turns this simple story of a one man hating another man for an unfashionable coat into something of a horror story by the end. With the opening of James hating the coat-wearing-man, there is no sense of where Lansdale will take the reader. With the opening of James hating the coat-wearing-man, the reader is given the steady and sure voice of Joe Lansdale and the stylized dialogue of a Lansdale character.

"Not at all. Look, you seem like a nice fellow. It's one thing for someone of...well, the lower classes to wear that coat, but for you to mix fashion like that, that dreadful coat over those fine clothes, it should be a hanging offense."

The man threw up his hands. "I've had enough of you. What business is it of yours?"

"I spend a large part of my time designing fashion, trying to make the world and those who live in it more attractive. Take what I’m wearing for example--"

"I wouldn't take it if you gave it to me," the man said. "I'm quite comfortable with my heirloom coat, and you, sir, are a weirdo who needs to go home and run his head under the shower until it clears, or, until you drown."
A Joe Lansdale story is a treat and Subterranean has delivered its third Lansdale in as many issues and collectively they show the strength and skill of Joe Lansdale. Coat is a simple, short, quirk of a story, but is deadly serious. It does not fit firmly in any genre, but is a very good story and while it is short enough to not require a time investment of any kind, it is strong enough to stick to the bones after the last (virtual) page is turned.


Aidan Moher said...

Short Fiction, despite being a form I love to write in, is something that has been sorely lacking when it comes to my reading time, but I'm definitely going to have to head over to Subterranean and check this one (and his other stories) out!

Thanks, Joe.

Nick said...

Nice little story. Need to get around to reading that one with the preacher. Also never got around to thanking you for those links to the Hugo Nomineed short stories. Some great stuff. Pratt's Impossible Dreams was very sweet, but Kin by Bruce McAllister was my favorite.

Also, have you seen Subterranean's cover for Scalzi's Old Man's War ?

Joe said...

Wow! Those are stunning covers!!!!! If I had the cash, I'd shell out $60 just to have Old Man's War with that cover.

I've been trying to find and read more short fiction, so you'll be seeing more reviews / discussion of short stories. Probably not everything I read, but just whatever I can work up a paragraph or two.

I finally finished all of the stories (finished Julian: A Christmas Story the other day). My votes for the best stories stand. I did like Kin, though. There's a chance Golden Gryphon is sending me a review copy of the new McAllister collection which includes Kin.