Monday, 19 January 2015

Cages by Ed Gorman, 1994

‘Cages’ just happened. I’m not sure why or how. I’m not even exactly sure what it’s about. But I do know that it’s a metaphor for how I've felt most of my life.
— Ed Gorman, Author's Note

© Cemetery Dance
Publications
Sunday morning, I woke up to a pitiful sight. A shabbily dressed man beat his dishevelled wife in front of their half-naked kid and a few roadside spectators. The man was consumed by rage and was probably high on booze or drugs as he abused, slapped, punched, and kicked his wife. He wanted her to go back and when she refused he dragged her by the hair and slapped her again. She clung to his legs. He punched her some more and tried to chase her away. The kid sucked on his little dirty fingers and quietly watched his father beat his mother who was silent and submissive throughout her ordeal. It didn’t last long. They disappeared somewhere.

I thought of this disturbing scene in context of the opening scene in Cages, a short story by well-known American author Ed Gorman. A small freakish boy with only one arm suffers the mental agony of listening to his parents fight over money, to his “dreamdusted” father slamming his mother into the wall and hitting her, to his mother shrieking and screaming and abusing as his father forces himself on her, till all is quiet again.

The boy is seething with anger. He wants to kill the man who created dreamdust which has destroyed his family, even his dream of a happy family. He knows that money, or the lack of it, is the reason why his father and mother fight every night. He decides to do something about it. He sets out with a sack filled with something unimaginable, along the way braving abuse and harassment by street bullies who call him “faggot” and “mutant.”

Cages is a dark, disturbing, and depressing tale. Some might read it as a horror story. It is set in a futuristic society addicted to a strange drug and distorted by mutants and androids. The mere idea that a society such as the one drawn by Gorman could exist someday is terrifying. Yet, in a way it already does. Shades of it are visible, for instance, in Indian society, especially in the lower echelons, where wife beating, sexual molestation, and rapes are common; where female foeticide and infanticide, though long outlawed, are still prevalent; where female foetuses and newborn girls are found dumped in garbage bins. ‘Cages’ would be an apt title to describe the sad plight of many a woman and girl child in India.

Well, this is just my take on the story which could be interpreted in so many dystopian ways.

Ed Gorman brings a unique style to Cages, one that I don’t read often. His writing is bare, he fires from the hip, there is almost no punctuation, and profanities are galore, none of which diminishes the value of this 21-page narrative. Cages makes for a chilling bedtime story. Or you could read it during the day and still shudder.

I believe Cages was part of a collection of stories published in 1995, the year it was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection. In 2009, Cemetery Dance Publications came out with an electronic edition of this gritty tale. You can pick up your copy at Amazon.

Recommended

14 comments:

  1. Great find Prashant. I have nothing from this author on the shelves (in the tubs), which is probably an oversight. Maybe one day when I reduce the stacks a bit.


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    1. Col, thank you. I have read just one western novel by Mr. Gorman and now this short story. I do want to read his other westerns as well as his popular Sam McCain, Jack Dwyer, and Jack Walsh crime and mystery series.

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    2. I think the Jack Dwyer books are the ones that figure most prominently on my radar... it's not too long a series, not that I need any extra authors or books!

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    3. Col, I have heard much about Mr. Gorman's Sam McCain series and I'm hoping to read those first, probably beginning with the first book.

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  2. I'm definitely going to read it. Never met a Gorman tale yet that I didn't like.

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    1. Charles, I discovered this short story only last week and wanted to read it right away. It may not be to everyone's liking.

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  3. I avoid dark, disturbing, and depressing at all costs. I've read and enjoyed some books by Ed Gorman, but this is one I not pick up, let alone finish.

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    1. Richard, other readers may not find it as such. I rarely read "dark" novels and CAGES seemed like a very dark story to me.

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  4. I began reading your post on Cages and thought it might be related to that small area of Bombay (Mumbai). And after reading the post, I thought it could be very easily adapted to it to with all the drama and terror that went on in Mr. Gorman's story.

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    1. Oscar, India has its share of "drama" and "terror" that has nothing to do with terrorism. I thought I'd give my review of CAGES a twist. I didn't know Mr. Gorman had written this story till I discovered it on Amazon.

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  5. I have read some of Ed Gorman's books (the Sam McCain series) and want to read other books by him, but I think this story would be too disturbing for me.

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    1. Tracy, I have heard a lot about the Sam McCain series and that's where I propose to acquaint myself better with Mr. Gorman's work.

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  6. A powerful review Prashant, but this would not be for me.

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    1. Moira, thank you. One could fictionalise real dark and disturbing stories out of India.

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