Look! Look! Feathers
(Word Riot Press, 2010)
Mike Young’s first collection, Look! Look! Feathers, announces a promising young voice. Poetic, insightful, and delightfully honest, Young tells stories of mundane days with a vulnerable, esoteric filter reminiscent of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son.
The book’s opening story, “The Peaches Are Cheap,” places us in an expertly-drawn Pacific Northwest, where two brothers grow into young men working blue collar jobs, eating canned peaches in a parked car. “Sometimes, under this drawl of light, a dying will find your jaw.” Tightly written, steeped in small town imagery, a sense that “it is so true” while reading feels apropos.
In “What The F*ck Is An Electrolyte?” we are given the obligatory young-man-in-a-band story. Young, however, is refreshingly able to create a narrator with such strong perspective that we as readers are left wondering, is this character reliable? Is he charmingly unreliable in his realism? Dark, cult-referencing, creepy, and realistic, we end in such utterly illuminated truths that there is darkness within the light. “From the floor, her voice half-smothered by the pillow, the woman began to hum one of the band’s songs.” The light comes from Young shining a flashlight into a room for us and saying, there.
In the collection’s strongest story, “Stay Awhile If You Can,” Young fuses rural legend with reality through the eyes of a mural painter. It is through this cleanly-stated, relatable voice that we find ourselves in the rain, with a young man, cold, shivering, and questioning. “Whenever it rains, I find myself wiping the glitter off my sleeves and taking a smoke break…Your art…wisdomly advice, wisdomly advice, wisdomly advice.”
As Kevin Sampsell writes on the back cover, “I believe in Mike Young.” This is a strong writer we will read more from in the future.