This was the last of my summer reading. I meant to only read the first five "issues" of this thing, but...well, I'll get into that soon enough.
My sometimes-drinking-buddy, Elizabeth Barone, started this publication with hopes of producing one volume once a month. But that interval shrunk and now we get one every week. That's ballsy--I wouldn't do it--and she has kept up with the pace so far.
Now, there are several things I fear when I read fiction from an author I have had some contact with. Maybe I'll completely abhor it--that's happened before with the ridiculously priced work of a person I knew in workshops. And if I do, can I review it the way I reviewed Pure by Julianna Baggott?
I couldn't acquire a jpeg of the cover for number 10. It's just as well; you get the idea.
"Sandpaper Fidelity" follows the lives of two couples, best-friends David and Josalee, and Ingrid and Victor. David is a homosexual who lives with Josalee, an Asian. While Ingrid is a depressed out of work educator who lives with her employed, sex-addict boyfriend, Victor. The subjects explored in each issue range from pregnancy to financial strain. I don't want to be too specific here since it would give away many of the little surprises.
What didn't work for me:
Each issue of "Sandpaper Fidelity" gives sparse details about its protagonists, ala Hemingway's short stories, that give you a glimpse into their inner but not their outer lives. I don't know much about Josalee, aside that she is Japanese and that she is currently going through some tough medical times. Victor is a mystery. And I'm not sure I understand Ingrid's decisions. David is slowly becoming more interesting per issue.
Of course, this is the start of a series that will continue on for some time. Elizabeth has her work cut out for her to fill out the characters she has created.
Issues 9 and 10 have a development for the character, Ingrid, that I think is fantastic. Mind you, desperate people will look for unusual avenues to earn money to pay their bills, but I feel like Ingrid seeks these avenues a little too quickly. The avenue she pursues (at least it hints that she will pursue it) is an industry that IS hiring right now--I even saw on the news that these establishments were offering to pay for college tuition bills to recruit new talent. The problem is that it is too much too soon. Had it been developed over several issues, I might have accepted it.
What worked for me:
It surprised me. The first issue was not exactly a grabber and I read issue 2 because I had bought it, but the subsequent issues drew me in. You do get caught up in the lives of these characters and after I read the first four issues, I bought the rest up to issue 10.
Part of this allure, I think, has to do with the way Elizabeth approaches each issue.
They are each short enough to be called flash fiction, which means you can read these in less than thirty minutes. I'll be frank when I say that I didn't think it would work. It seemed too dificult to build interest with flash fiction that doesn't complete the tales it starts. I was wrong.
The advantage to this approach is that you don't tire out your reader. But it is risky too. Like I said, the first issue wasn't a grabber, but slowly the others grabbed. Little by little, they work their fingers of fiction into your mind.
And the subject matter is very intriguing. I won't give too much away, but it dabbles in the risque. And I do hope that she dabbles more in those subjects. But in a realistic manner, lacking melodrama and heavy-handed techniques to force someone to feel something for the situations presented. She has done well enough so far, and I think it will develop once she reaches her stride. Already the makings of strong storylines exist.
The focus is also excellent. I didn't once feel overwhelmed with unnecessary characters--a wise thing with so short a canvas to work with. The storylines stick with its two main couples. In each issue we see their simple situations approached in an honest manner. There is very little sensationalism aside from what I mentioned. So, their reactions, including Ingrid in those first few issues, was a treat to read. I'm curious to see how David finally reveals the dark truth he has learned to Josalee. And I want to see how Victor struggles with his personal, sexual difficulty.
I want to read more.
For all the reasons that it shouldn't have grabbed me, "Sandpaper Fidelity" did. I'll wait for another ten issues to come along before I get them (that's just my preference). But I definitely will. Also, Elizabeth is often giving these things away, so look for these announcements on her website.
In the future I hope we see more of the city they are in. And more of the other supporting characters that make up the background of the main characters. I hope we continue to see situations handled honestly and realistically, as we have for the most part.
If you want cheap fiction that grabs you, give this a try. It might surprise you too.
*Disclaimer: Elizabeth Barone is not my drinking buddy. I haven't even met her!