Review by: D.W. Jefferson (El Salvador 1974–76), (Costa Rica 1976–77)
In the interest of full disclosure, I must report that I read and thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Davidson’s previous book, Spectators (Flash Fictions). The two novellas that comprise What Some Would Call Lies showcase Rob Davidson’s profound insight into the minds and thought processes of human beings, and his ability to bring sympathetic characters to life, causing us to feel what they feel, or at least recall and reflect upon similar experiences of our own.
Davidson teaches creative writing. These novellas are great examples of the craft. The title What Some Would Call Lies derives from the idea that, even when writing nonfiction, a writer often includes experiences that are not literally true. They may be based on the stories of parents, siblings or others.
In addition to being two interesting and very well-written stories, I recommend the use of this book as a resource for beginning and aspiring writers. Unlike many writers’ manuals which encourage you to “up the ante” by making your main character’s overall experience a transformative journey. Davidson’s stories feature the main characters in relatively mundane day-to-day and family experiences. Having maybe read one too many writers’ manuals, I appreciate that!
I found myself comparing the characters’ experiences to my own; feeling something akin to nostalgia. Like the protagonist of the first novella, I too have lost a sister. Many readers will relate to having a difficult relationship with a parent, as occurs in both novellas.
Davidson at times waxes philosophical, transcending the voice of the story’s main character to comment more directly in the voice of the author, as in this passage from Infidels, the second novella:
And so it is memory I cling to, these memories to which I return like the bright notes of a song, an old record dropping onto the turntable, the needle descending to its scratchy groove.
Davidson even manages to include a former Peace Corps volunteer as a character in one of the novellas! I suggest you get your own copy to read and possibly re-read. The first novella has some tips for aspiring writers that I plan to revisit.
Reviewer D.W. Jefferson was a Peace Corps agriculture volunteer in El Salvador (1974-76) and Costa Rica (1976-77). A blog about his Peace Corps years is at: http://dwjefferson.blogspot.com He is currently retired from a career in computer software engineering.