||June 6, 2006
Barnes & Noble.com
The President's Parasite and Other Stories
In The President's Parasite, Jim Musgrave resurrects all that has gone missing in today's literature: originality. The title story is a Kafkaesque piece from the point-of-view of an intellectual tapeworm trapped inside a moronic president, and the satirical impact is worthy of Swift. The other stories range from a widower trapped inside the Clock Tower in Baghdad that he constructed, to a baseball pitcher who becomes a living vegetable after a batted ball strikes his head. All in all, there is something for everyone in this collection of 30 eye-popping stories from a truly gifted author.
George W. Bush’s nightmare became real after 9/11/01—the day he injested me. How did it happen? Zolanda Pitcairn, age 7, handed my host a barbeque sandwich, in which I was hiding (in my proglottid or, as Marx would say, “proletarian” form) inside the meat. Little Ms. Pitcairn was an intermediate host, in and of herself, as the Emma E. Booker Elementary School was home to many of the lower-class students of Sarasota, Florida. Zolanda and her fellow students were happy to have the president read to them that day, and Zolanda was simply showing her appreciation, in the middle of the reading, by handing George her sandwich. I, of course, was also quite grateful, as this was the beginning of my very personal relationship with the leader of the Free World, as he couldn’t help but take a bite of that sandwich.
You get word Jennifer is pregnant when you are on the road, in San Francisco, but you remember that it was a rain delay. The umpires had called for the tarp to be pulled in, and you could feel the pounding of the drops against your back, as you stood in the runway tunnel behind the dugout. “The rabbit died?” you ask, picturing Jennifer, with her patented smile, the smile that won you over at Cal-Berkeley, the smile that is like pitching a perfect game. Oh, silly Ward, go finish your baseball game! We’ll both be here when you get back.
The game was completed, you struck out ten batters that day, and your team won, 6-2. It was your sixth year in the league, and you were finally coming into your own—living up to all the hype of being the number one draft choice out of college—your record was 8-1 before the All-Star Game--with a 1.98 Earned Run Average, and many players were saying you deserved a spot on the All-Star roster. “Hell, I’m not gonna make it,” you say, embarrassed to be mentioned in the same breath as “The Big Unit,” “The Rocket,” and your idol, the flaky lefty on your own team, “Boomer” Willis.
Six months later, the dream you have about “that day” recurs every night. The batted ball comes at your head in slow motion. You know it is actually coming at you at over 120 miles per hour, but in the dream it is an agonizingly slow journey. You can see the seams revolving in mid-air, like one of your fastballs thrown to the catcher. You once saw “The Unit” throw a fastball at over 100 mph, and it hit a luckless pigeon. There was nothing but a flurry of feathers in the slow-motion replay—no sign of a bird—the bird had evaporated in a burst of power from the lefty’s awesome “cheese.” Now the ball is coming at your head—in retribution for the many hours you spent throwing in the backyard with your Dad, the drill sergeant, your Dad, the one who yelled, “Focus, godammit! Focus on the glove!” before he died of his heart attack. Suddenly, the ball morphs into a glass of beer, a line of coke, a joint of weed. You’ve lost focus, and the ball speeds up. It cracks into your skull, between your eyes, and your mind goes numb. The years of college, the degree in Electrical Engineering from Cal, all the precious memories of your childhood and marriage, disintegrate and plunge you deep into the Abyss of your own soul.
Your daughter, Angie, is born, in an emergency cesarean section, shortly after your accident—prematurely at 24 weeks—she is extracted, like an exquisite, 12-inch, one pound 12-ounce diamond, from the cave of the mother, and plunged into the heated darkness of the incubator.
Stephen King commented in one of his books–sorry I don’t remember which one–that the popularity of short story compilations has lost favor with contemporary readers, and I guess he should know. If that is indeed the case, I would ask that you make an exception and consider reading Jim Musgrave’s The President’s Parasite and Other Stories as this is an exceptional book–contemporary, insightful, poignantly honest–a glimpse into the down- or back-side of life.
There is so much I’d like to say and excerpts I’d like to share, but that would make this review much too long. The first book I reviewed for this author was a novel titled Iron Maiden. It is my opinion that Jim’s short stories reveal his true talent and gift. From his writings you will experience an intelligent, educated, aware person–socially and politically concerned about real life and our problems in this world. It is also clear that Jim has lived a lot of life in order to tell these tales. He’s a good writer with a rich imagination, and the book is well-edited.
On second thought, I can’t help but share a few excerpts from his writing with you.
From the Littlest Angel of San Diego, page 133:
"Daddy came back home soon after Brittany joined the angels to take care of Mother when she gets to heaven. He is helping me take care of Mother until she passes on. He isn’t so bad, either, because he doesn’t drink. Maybe I won’t have to be the mother too long now. Daddy says we need a woman around the house to take care of the little ones. We all walk down to the place where the express comes into town. We never could afford a grave for Brittany, but Daddy always insists that he can see a little angel riding on the engine as it comes into view.
"I must admit, I can see her too, if I look closely. I can see the flowing yellow gown blowing in the wind, the knowing smile, the loving protection that we all need–even big diesel train mechanics. But, sometimes, late at night, when someone is shooting in the neighborhood, or a drunk is yelling out in the street, I can see the train rushing toward me, and I can’t jump out of the way. There is no angel. There is only darkness and emptiness all around me."
From The Clock Tower of Baghdad, pages 180, 181 and 184:
"It was a brilliant plan! Dr. Hussein was going to let each leader in the world experience his invention until he or she entered the state of eternal bliss that he had experienced. No longer would they believe they were powerful or politically correct. Instead, the instant karmic reality of Level II Consciousness would send the infinite world into a state to total understanding and infinite peace!"
"As I push the button, the music stops, but I am instantly aware of a new light all around me. Sounds have become vibrations that I can feel. Colors can be smelled, and I can hear with incredible exactitude. A woman, holding the hand of a child walks toward me, down a long corridor. I wait. She comes into my cell, and it becomes a grotto. Birds are singing and a waterfall trickles down the sides of the green, cascading hills around us. We have morphed into paradise! It is Shahrzad and my son, Muhammad! And soon, as if to complete the miracle, my father, Ibrahim, comes into the light. He is no longer crippled. He walks with pride into my arms. I feel his body, and it is muscular and new, just as it was when I was a youth. And so, when I gaze into the pond before me, I can see I am young again, and the rapturous longing in my heart becomes overcome with joy!"
Jim Musgrave can say so much with so few words, and he does just that, quite beautifully. You won’t be disappointed.
Reviewed by Kaye Trout - September 21, 2006
A Satiric Look into the Human Mind
The President’s Parasite is a collection of short stories in which the author creates a paradox of the human life. Throughout the entire book, Jim Musgrave continuously makes fun at human strange behaviors and oddities. He mocks America’s worldwide politics and its president, the Nazis and their beliefs, the war in Iraq and how much it affects us all, and he also attacks strong ethical issues such as the abortion or the death penalty.
The author portrays unusual situations and out of the ordinary characters: an American woman who pretends to be a reporter to save her kidnapped husband from an Iraqi insurgent group, a millionaire who wants to show his pastor that he can cause more problems with his money by wanting to do good to the society than by spending it on alcohol, a man with the biggest penis in the entire world who becomes part of a freak show, a parasite who lives in the president's body and communicates with people on the outside to save the world, and so on.
Jim Musgrave is a talented writer with brilliant ideas. His writing shows he is an educated man and very well-rounded. He can talk freely about religion, politics, and worldwide events with a vast knowledge. Moreover, his short stories will make you think and laugh.
I really enjoyed reading this book and I recommend it to anyone who wants to get a good laugh at the world around us.
"Sharp. Cutting. The President’s Parasite brings a new edge to the literary world, as Musgrave delves into our imaginations and holds us rapt with attention from beginning to end."--Rea Frey, author of A Woman's Ring
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Reader Reviews for "The President's Parasite and Other Stories"
|Reviewed by Rick Lodewell
|Weird but wonderful. Almost makes me wish I had a tapeworm.|