Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Misfits and Other Heroes: Suzanne Burns

Written by Lauren Becker
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Suzanne Burns writes like a Chuck Palahniuk protégé, dealing with the secret, dark side of life to which many don’t   venture. Her stories are unique with strange yet often relatable characters. While it might take a special kind of person to read her short story collection, her stories are all so varied in their characters and plots, any open-minded person should find at least one story that will speak to them in some way.
Suzanne Burns writes like a Chuck Palahniuk protégé, dealing with the secret, dark side of life to which many don’t venture. Her stories are unique with strange yet often relatable characters. While it might take a special kind of person to read her short story collection, her stories are all so varied in their characters and plots, any open-minded person should find at least one story that will speak to them in some way.

Since Burns’ stories aren’t full novels, the reader never gets total and complete closure at the end of a tale. Overall, this is not a problem as it leaves things up to interpretation and allows the reader to fill in the gaps of the characters’ lives once they are finished reading. Real life stories don’t end with a neat bow on top, and Burns definitely shows this in her collection.

The first story in her collection is about “Tiny Ron” and his wife, who must deal with being married to such a small person, but the more interesting story is what comes next in “Acquired Taste,” which shows you the life of a magician named Randall. Randall lives his life trying to find a partner who will be so crazy or so sick that the people around him pity him for having to live with her. His first wife is anorexic and all the nurses feel sorry for him and make him feel important. When he meets Lottie, who eats the most random things from coins to chalk, he hopes that the attention he gets from others will continue. "Acquired Taste" feels realistic as it shows the sides of human nature that many exhibit but are rarely mentioned in everyday life.

Another highlight from Misfits and Other Heroes is “The Resurrection of Debbie." Debbie is a middle-age woman who, having gone through a tragedy of sorts in the past, re-christens herself Dylan and simply expects those who know her to play along. On the level of plot, “The Resurrection of Debbie” is about a character who seems to have Multiple Personality Disorder, but thematically it also shows the universal idea that you can’t simply imagine away the past. “The Interest of Marcia,” another great story, starts with a woman named Claire who moves to a small town and befriends a woman named Marcia. Marcia and Claire’s burgeoning friendship is ruined, however, when Marcia begins to pester Claire to leave the house and explore the town, and Claire soon learns what life is like when you push people away.

“At the Edge of Lucky” is one of the last and creepiest stories in the collection. Florence has never been one of the pretty girls and hates that she’s stuck in her small town with no way out. She’s always wanted the town beauty Janice to notice her and for the diner cook Thaddeus to pick her instead of someone else. It isn’t until Janice is murdered that Florence finally gets Thaddeus’ attention, but does she really want it?

Misfits and Other Heroes ends with “The One Fate Dared,” where an interesting character named Maxine teaches a woman how to feel again. Her methods are strange, possibly dangerous, and not exactly friendly, but in the end, the woman knows that she’s changed and is ready to embrace this odd form of life. Of the collection, this story probably best exemplifies Chuck Palahniuk’s influence on Burns in its strong resemblance to Palahnik’s Fight Club.

Overall, Misfits and Other Heroes is a welcome addition to the world of short stories. With this motley crew of different characters and thought-provoking story lines, it is definitely reminiscent of many other cult favorites.

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