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Brief Reviews-Fiction6
by Gary Draper

"I SAT ON a big rock staring at Arlene`s open grave, just me all alone, and her in a rough plywood box, a very plain box with cheap handles, pine:" That`s the inauspicious opening line of the first story of Catholyn K. Jansen`s Birds of a Feather (Vehicule, 176 pages, $12.95 paper). Here are some of the things that happen, retrospectively, in the next 20 pages. A teacher grabs the narrator (Leenie) by the ponytail as she drinks from the fountain and bashes her teeth into the fountain. Arlene throws up in the washroom ("Red bits of beets slithered down the walls and on to the cold marble floor"). Leenie loses her own lunch moments later ("Bitter green slime spewed from my mouth and on to the floor"). Then Arlene ("more beets"). Leenie, wrongly identified as being pregnant, quits school in consequence (both girls have been raped by a guy called Heman). Back at Arlene`s house, the girls watch Arlene`s dog Blackie get hit by a car. Arlene dies. That`s the first story. Several of the later ones unfold in a poultry slaughterhouse. The horror is pervasive and predictable. Imagine the nastiest things that could happen in a poultry slaughterhouse. They do. Jansen manages some good effects using the dead Arlene as Leenie`s doppelganger, and there is a certain magic in the witchery that develops in the title story. The horrible events and places are intended to carry symbolic weight, some of it only too obvious. But there is too little imagination here to lift the kitchensink grotesquery into something more than revulsion for its own sake.

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