Thursday, April 22, 2010

As If We Were Prey

4/11/10 Michael Delp's new anthology of short stories, As If We Were Prey (Wayne State, $15.95), is a slim paperback that packs a powerful punch.

Delp, who has taught at Interlochen Arts Academy for more than 25 years, examines the attitudes and frailties of the male psyche in a selection of interesting and unusual stories set in Michigan.

Stylistically, Delp's stories could be compared to Jim Harrison, one of our state's most respected authors, as he is strong on character development. It's impossible to predict what's going to happen in Delp's stories; the reader is whisked away in a series of small-town vignettes full of memorable scenes.
While the title story is most disturbing, it's wisely at the end of the book, when a northern Michigan shop teacher melts down psychologically, flashing back to Vietnam and other troubling experiences.

His best story, Traveling Einstein, is more laid back, about a man who travels through small Michigan in a '47 Dodge station wagon.

He lives on donations and the kindness of strangers, challenging the townspeople:

You ask 'em and Art Bewley answers 'em. No question too difficult. Come on, dredge your minds, and if you can get me, I'll give you five bucks.

In five years of this type of questioning, the self-proclaimed "Man of a Thousand Answers, Master of Minutiae" hasn't been stumped, but Bewley faces new challenges.

The first story, Commandos, about a small-town bully, is disturbing. Another deals with a man bringing his daughter back to a basement site where he lost many boxing matches as a youth.

Mystery Park explores the attitudes of freshly tattooed Ray Munger, who's on his way to help his sister move. He gets involved in an unusual situation with a caged bear at a run-down tourist attraction.

Therapy is a bizarre tale about an odd solution to marital problems while Perfect Bass is a funny fishing story that focuses on human behavior and possible rewards.

Delp, who lives outside Traverse City, is one of the editors of Wayne State University Press' "Made in Michigan" Writer's Series.

Ray Walsh
This article also appeared in the Lansing State Journal on April 11, 2010

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