Bigfoot, Time Travel, and Secret Hand Vaginas: A Review of BJ Hollars' Sightings | Fanboys Anonymous
BJ Hollars, the man who brought you Monsters: A Collection of Literary Sightings, has a debut monster all his own. Branded as a subversion of the traditional Midwest coming-of-age-story, Sightings invokes Bigfoot, clowns, time travel, robots and those secret hand vaginas you make by linking two perpendicular pairs of hands together and looking inside— all to more authentically speak to the human condition. Across ten short stories, Hollars captures the essence of awkward adolescence, the changing landscapes of parental relationships, the urges, the odors, the odd new hairs, without ever leaving the reader feeling like he is treading tired and well-established literary ground— though he absolutely, unashamedly is.
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In a way, Sightings is a reinvigoration, an evangelization of the coming-of-age-story. The titular story of Bigfoot joining a high school basketball team and attending prom is at its simplest a story of the new kid’s struggle to fit in. "Westward Expansion" and "Dixie Land" both find sons who grew up idolizing their fathers suddenly face-to-face with old, delusional men, hopelessly wrapped in history. Conversely, "Line of Scrimmage" features a son facing the distinct lack of a father, who tries to replace him with the uproariously hilarious Coach Housen.

Hollars has a way with a casual joke, a funny scene, as well as a well-timed punch to the gut. His scatterbrained Roger in "Schooners" is a wealth of quotables. There’s even slapstick in "The Clowns". Yet, in "Indian Villiage" and "Loose Lips Sink Ships," Hollars tempers the humor, allowing us to see the destructive reality of sex when it collides with teenage fantasy.

For how strong Sightings is, it closes weakly. "The Clowns" becomes predictable quick, and excuses itself quickly, seemingly aware of it’s own staleness. "Robotics" begins to chart new ground for the collection, exploring a strong motherly presence, but we don’t get to inhabit the story nearly long enough. Finally, "Missing Mary" is buried at the very back. It doesn’t have that single, developed single protagonist, that edge of fantasy, nor does it feel like a coming-of-age-tale in the way the other nine do. I know ten is a nice, round number, but I can’t help thinking that Sightings would have been best with only nine stories.

Still, I can’t help but heartily recommend Sightings. If you like humor, punchy, efficient prose, and a little magic in your realism, Hollars is addressing these stories to you.

And, if you have a book you'd like to recommend I cover, do so in the comments below.
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