Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli; ChiZine Publications; 2011; 158 pgs; $10.95 US
In the past, Tom Piccirilli has gone on record admonishing readers to never confuse authors with the content or characters in their stories. But how can you avoid this kind of comparison when the author puts so much of himself into one of them?
The nameless lead character in Tom’s Every Shallow Cut is an author who can barely cope with his regrets in life over lost opportunities, lost love, and lost friendships. He’s carrying the burdens of frustration and guilt in situations he has had control over and of those he has not. The emotional stresses from the breakdown of his marriage, the spiraling down of his career, and the absence of familial support all come crashing down on him, and he is lost.
The only thing that sustains this author is violence. It becomes an outlet for his impotence. Whether it’s fighting back after a mugging, imagining the forceful sexual coupling of an old girlfriend, or beating the crap out of young policeman, he feeds off the brutality, taking from it enough energy to keep his sanity intact.
There are two other characters in Every Shallow Cut that underline the desperation and hopelessness the author feels. The first is a bulldog named Churchill. Tom goes to extremes to demonstrate the author’s love for his pet. And the bulldog’s love for the author also seems to be unconditional, underscoring the fact that every human the author is in contact with has betrayed him, or in one way or another, abandoned him. The other character is a gun. It is a reassurance for the author that he has at least one means to force control of a situation, or to put an end to it.
Themes of betrayal, professional failure, and violence are nothing new in a Tom Piccirilli story. What makes Every Shallow Cut so unique is the depth of depression and helplessness he has wrapped his character in. There are no hints of redemption or salvation in Every Shallow Cut. There are no epiphanies. And often, there’s little justification for some of the real or imagined acts of violence that takes place. Having said all that, the story is a remarkable piece of fiction. Tom Piccirilli is one of only a handful of authors that can pull off a tale as depressing as this one is and keep the readers engrossed until the last word.
Every Shallow Cut is the darkest story Tom has ever written, and despite the admonishment, one can’t help but wonder how much of Tom is in the story. We get obvious clues as the inclusion of a bulldog, the more than passing resemblance of a good friend of his as one of the characters, and the frustration the author in the story has with agents. Who knows what other subtle demon’s Tom is exorcising in Every Shallow Cut? And even though we aren’t supposed to make these kinds of connections, it’s just so much fun to do so.
Normally, when people get cut, blood spills from their wounds. When Tom Piccirilli gets cut, sentences pour out. I recommend picking up Every Shallow Cut and getting some of his blood in your hands.
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