Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Death, Sweet Suitor Mine

Chris Anne Wolfe
Windstorm Creative

Windstorm Creative has released another short story in it's Delimit Nonpareil series. Death, Sweet Suitor Mine examines the "relationship" between Death and a woman struggling with a life threatening illness. As Chris Newport mentions in her introduction, "This isn't a light read." (5) She is quite correct. Death, Sweet Suitor Mine is a first person and intimate exploration of how the narrator views death. A touching, even haunting story, it lingers in the reader's mind. This is especially true given that this story was written by the late Chris Anne Wolfe, who died in 1997 after several years of struggling with cancer. Wolfe saw four fantasy adventure novels published in her life. Each of them is wonderful and it appears that her skill with short stories was equally impressive.

Windstorm Creative has taken some effort in creating this book, described as handmade, 50 pages, and full color. However, this reader was disappointed with the aesthetics of the project. The book is actually 24 pages with a large font, unusual margins -- very wide on top and bottom, yet very narrow on the sides -- and the pages of this copy are not cut square to the print. Much of this formatting appears to be to make more of an approximately 3000 word, at the most, short story. Perhaps least forgivable in a book of this nature and length are the typographical errors. The cover is quite attractive -- a recognizable portrait of Wolfe with a shadowed profile of an African American woman -- yet somewhat disturbing in its implication, which to this reader was not defined by the author's work.

The handmade and environmentally friendly elements not withstanding, Death, Sweet Suitor Mine does not justify the price. It is not a pleasing gift book format. Nor is it long enough -- regardless of the quality of the writing -- for the price. And the repeated color photograph on each page does not compensate, regardless of publisher expense. There are a number of possible formats that could have been used to create a more enjoyable tribute to Wolfe's legacy. Newport's introduction also mentions that Wolfe gifted several unpublished short stories, novellas, and novels to Windstorm Creative in her will. Hopefully, the press will not attempt to dole out each of Wolfe's stories in this manner.

Finally, Windstorm Creative has the annoying habit of requesting in a front peice that readers buy their books, rather than borrowing them, bemoaning the difficulties faced by small presses. This reader is very sympathetic toward small, independent publishers and values their struggles to provide access to non-mainstream books, especially titles with positive lesbian characters. Having said that, the best way to increase book sales, is to release more good books. Lecturing the reader tends to create the opposite effect. Death, Sweet Suitor Mine is disappointing in everything except for Wolfe's writing. If you have the opportunity to read it, do so. . . . Perhaps you'd like to borrow my copy?

-MJ Lowe

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