Where do I even begin with a writer like Laura Lee Bahr? If you’re unfamiliar with Bahr, it’s safe to say you’re missing out on something special. But do not fret—there’s still time to hop on this train and catch up. I first learned of the talented Laura Lee Bahr when I picked up her debut novel last year (Haunt, a brilliantly bizarre supernatural noir book published back in 2011). Next was another novel in 2015 titled Long Form Religious Porn, which is currently in my To Be Read pile, but I imagine it’s really damned good. Now, however, I’d like to focus on her most recent effort, a short story collection released earlier this year, enigmatically titled Angel Meat.
What I love most about Bahr’s fiction is that it isn’t easily classifiable. Depending on the story, it may be dark, funny, sexy, poignant, horrific, strange, or something else you can’t quite put your finger on. Often, it is some combination of these qualities. Ultimately, I’d classify it as literary fiction sans pretension, the type of fiction that can take you anywhere if you’re willing to embrace it, the tales where the language matters just as much as the story. Exactly the type of fiction that hooks deeply into my flesh and pulls it tight until I feel pain and pleasure equally.
These stories in this brief collection are all distinct in tone and tale, yet they are still united through Bahr’s consistent voice. Ranging from subtle science fiction (“The Cause’) to possible parable (“Rat-Head) to arguable autobiographical account (“In the Desert”), you never know what you’re going to get from a Laura Lee Bahr story. Though all nine stories are worthwhile, I’d like to focus briefly on my two favorites in the collection. First, “The Liar,” an uncomfortably dark tale that deals with a peculiar moral grey area surrounding victim and offender. A perfect blend of innocence and corruption. My other top was “Happy Hour,” which deals with the idea that there are strange and possibly horrible things we are willing to live with when the alternative is utter loneliness. Darkly humorous, but also tender in its on weird way.
There’s nothing else I can really say at this point except that you should buy this book (and all of Bahr’s other books). If you’re looking for something satisfyingly unique, you’ve come to the right place.