The Father of Octopus Wrestling and Other Small Fictions by Frankie McMillan (Canterbury University Press, 2019), 146pp., $27.99
Reading Frankie McMillan’s The Father of Octopus Wrestling and Other Small Fictions is like taking part in a speed dating evening. You only have five minutes to meet the fifty-five applicants. All are equally fascinating and equally elusive. If only, you think to yourself, I could spend half an hour reading each one, delving deep to find out if any is a wife beater or an alcoholic.
It was probably a mistake to read this book after rereading Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, and then, Olive Again. At first, I resisted the slickness of McMillan’s small fictions that never allowed such close encounters with character and background. But nothing is more annoying than the reviewer who says ‘Why didn’t the writer write it like this?’ or ‘It would have better if she’d done this.’ There is a world of difference between Stout’s connected short stories set in one small town, and McMillan’s fictions, which roam from unspecified locations to Rotorua, Lake Bunyonyi, Ireland, Amsterdam, Ukraine and a myriad of other places. [Read more…]