All Points North
Shelby R. Lee III
Outskirts Press (2010)
Reviewed by Marty Shaw for Reader Views (1/11)
“All Points North” is a collection of short stories that seems to miss the mark by varying degrees. The first story, which also happens to be titled “All Points North,” was a sad introduction that had a glimmer of unrealized potential. It recounts the adventure of two brothers taking part in a sailboat regatta during a storm. I believe the main problem with this particular story was focusing too much on sailing terms and minute details that really didn’t help move things along, and some things could have been made a little easier for non-sailors like me. This paragraph is encountered on the second page:
“Henry had just finished taking a big knot out of the spinnaker halyard and came back to take the tiller and tersely tell me to take the spinnaker down. As I grabbed the lower corners of the spinnaker under the port boom and pulled and gathered that jumbo sail, Henry, with measure, eased on the spinnaker halyard and started to let his pent-up hot head go.”
What? I know Henry removed a knot and calmed down a little, and something was done with a sail, but I was lost through the rest of it. Paragraphs like the one above fill the story and direct attention away from what could be an exciting plot. The reader is told about dark clouds moving in at the beginning of the race and we learn at the end of the race that eight or nine boats encountered tragedy, but we miss the storm. There’s no excitement, no danger; just a lot words describing the work that goes into operating a sailboat.
I would like to say things improved from there, but the first story was actually my favorite story in the book. The second story, “The Duck Hunt,” is a twelve-page story that would have greatly benefited from being shrunk down to the following statement – Young man is interested in going duck hunting because he thinks it will be exciting. He goes duck hunting with family friends and learns that he really doesn’t like duck hunting. The End. Now I’m sure something could be done to liven the story up a bit but the author once again spends time on trivial details instead of working to inject any excitement or drama into the ‘adventure.’
The remainder of “All Points North” is more of the same; bits and pieces of ordinary life told with so little excitement that they could be random snippets from someone’s diary. Ordinary life can be written in an exciting way, but that can’t be achieved by putting so much attention on the dull and routine aspects of everyday life.