Three Syllable Hosannas for Two Syllable Men
By Amos Patmore on August 1, 2016
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In “Two Syllable Men,” a story collection by John McCaffrey, we are treated to a jury box of Twelve Not-Quite-Angry Men. Take “Herman” who is prescribed hot yoga for his gout. While on his mat, Herman falls instantly in love. Like a few other protagonists in the book Herman is a blusher, an unsteady explorer, a perspirer; there’s a fair amount of sweating and expectorating in these stories as if the characters must physically eject inner toxins. McCaffrey has a beautiful way of rendering the the skin-sack of his characters, caressing the surface bruises of his woebegone blokes. His prose style is deeply textured and frequently hilarious. The twelve disciples in the book are often waylaid by false messiahs in their hankering for healing. They are bedeviled by modern mountebanks, neurotic bullies, monstrous gurus, and slippery authorities.
Often lonely, usually libidinous, occasionally bonkers, these men are caught dancing on the brink--and what pushes them over the side or rescues them from falling in is almost always a woman. His sexes don’t battle as much as bumble. There is a tentative sweetness to some of these men as they trip after women. After his divorce, “Byron” migrates from obsession to obsession until his latest preoccupation (hunting for postcards left in used books) at last prepares him for the notion of romance. Not all of his characters break into the light but at least they never stop punching. In “Two Syllable Men,” John McCaffrey sings us subtle hymns of hope.