Five Hundred Poor: Stories by Noah Milligan

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When I was in the room, Frank stared at me the way men have since I was eleven years old, with a mixture of lust and apathy.

While this is a slim collection of stories it is so peculiar and wonderful that I hope Milligan writes more, I just realized he wrote a novel too titled An Elegant Theory that I will have to acquire. What I love about these stories is that they aren’t about perfect, successful happy folks.The men and women in this book seem to live outside the lives people imagine are waiting for the well-adjusted. Everything’s Fine is fantastic, what an odd story, there are some authors you read and ask yourself, ‘what inspired this tale?’ It is deeply sad, and these are the sort of characters (people) that will never be ‘normal’. Our narrator did strange things to herself, she tells us, when she was little. You can imagine her parents hovering over their daughter through her entire childhood scared, not of outside dangers, but of what she could do to herself. But that isn’t really the story, the story is where she works as an adult, at the Rosewood Medical Center for the Severely Disabled. More forgotten people who live in the cracks of time, stuck in facilities, lucky if their caretakers are gentle and kind. She meets the brother of a patient, and so begins one of the weirdest relationships I’ve read and yet this ‘living at a distance’, vicariously through another’s happiness that makes sense.

The Motion of Bodies exposes the dangers of our social comments whether they are light-hearted jokes or not. What’s more terrifying than an offhanded comment or joke that turns on you, makes you a social enemy? Not as far-fetched as we think. It can cost more than we ever thought we’d have to give up. How do you defend against a few words that paints a picture of you as someone you’re not? Especially if you wrote them? What we mean in this age is impossible to reign in, all it takes is one person to shape your thoughts, usually strangers. The jungle seems to be social media now.

A Good Start is the first story, a man grapples with caring for a boy who may or may not be his son, and truly what does it matter to him? He doesn’t much take to the idea of being ‘obligated’ to anything or anyone. I just kept thinking ‘born alone, die alone’. If it is his son, their childhoods and their mothers are mirrors. It produces raw thoughts and ugly feelings to imagine there are such upbringings that makes no room for innocence. Little boys and girls who learn all too soon not to trust any adults, most especially not their mothers and fathers, and that they better get streetwise fast if they have any chance of survival.

These are not your usual short stories, they aren’t pretty in fact in one a man’s job is to clean up crime scenes, suicides,  and nautral deaths in Status Zero, some are really weird but all are original. I read the following on goodreads.com under the book summary.  The title comes from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, “Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. The affluence of the rich excites the indignation of the poor, who are often both driven by want, and prompted by envy, to invade his possessions.” There must be five hundred poor.

Publication Date: June 1, 2018

Central Avenue Publishing

 

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