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Amateur Book Review
“Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes”
by J. Robert Lennon
Reviewed by Scott Kildall
I was hastily packing my bags for a red eye flight from San Francisco to New York and was looking for a new book to read. I found this one on my shelf and have no recollection of purchasing it. Indeed, I had never even seen it before.
My own experience mirrors many described in the 100 very short stories written by Lennon. A seemingly insignificant event (usually in a small town) often changes everything afterwards. His stories simultaneously embrace the ironic and sincere as he reflects on the both the durability and hopelessness of human nature.
The tales begin with simple observations or events. Pleasing white smoke emanates from the neighbor’s chimney, but later turns out to be something else. In another story, a professor spurns the local left-handed society and then loses his right arm in a car accident, but not his essential optimism. Another anecdote recalls a bronze sculpture of a mother breastfeeding, which vanishes from the town square and, to the bafflement of the local police, is mysteriously replaced 9 months later with the same woman bottle-feeding.
The collection causes a rethinking of the impact of small events and what we choose to pay attention to in life. Depicting the subjectivity of memory and the shifty nature of imagination, Lennon dips the reader into different places and times. These fragments of fiction unite to form a collective whole that capture an essential contradiction: that we have the capacity to transform yet are trapped by our own selves.