Handwritten Tales: What is Taboo by Jim D Buchanan is a collection of some short and some not so short tales that seeks to explore the areas of life that we tend to ignore and pretend don’t exist – that we’d rather not talk about. The author wants us to consider the darker side of human nature, the evil that often exists in full view of us all, yet that many of us choose to ignore. He presents a litany of sometimes disgusting and sometimes sad tales that make us examine the motivation of humans and society. From the two boys who grew up surrounded by depravity and yet somehow survived a father that killed his entire family but would forever be haunted by survivor guilt and the belief that he could have done more to save his sister through to a young man who travels halfway around the world to search for his father in South East Asia and become caught up in the struggles of a foreign people against their ethnic and religious overlords, to a story of corporate greed, corruption and the deception of capitalism as a good for society, this book of short stories really does touch on the core essence of what it is to be human and what makes us tick.
I’m not usually a fan of short-story anthologies, as I often feel too much meat and character development is missed in the brief telling of a story, however, in Handwritten Tales: What is Taboo, author Jim D Buchanan really does break through the periphery to deeply dissect the human condition and expose it bare for us all to see. As with any anthology there are always stories that touch me more deeply than others or that I could call my favourites. This was no exception and two tales stood out in particular for me, as accurately portraying the sense of frustration and evil that exists in the world and our inability to do anything about it. Oklahoma Bypass allows the author to reflect on the contribution to the country of immigration and the positive effect immigrants have on the communities they are assimilated into. Given the current state of play in the US at present and the anti-immigrant rhetoric around the world, I found one simple passage to be very telling and moving: The main character is discussing his Oklahoma relatives and describes them as professional and practiced takers. He then compares that to your average immigrant who left owners and controllers behind to come here. The whole story was very telling to me. I also was moved by The Funeral, in which the main character recounts what it is like to attend a funeral where you are not wanted nor welcomed by the rest of the family – he does this in reference to his own Mother’s funeral. I found this whole story profound and moving. There are many more fascinating tales here that pithily sum up the human condition and both its best and its worst. I can highly recommend this read.