Mark Anthony Jarman’s Burn Man presents a unique collection of 21 short stories that span four decades of his illustrious career, from his debut with Dancing Nightly in the Tavern (1984) to his later work like Ireland’s Eye (2017).
In an interview with Biblioasis, Jarman revealed that he enjoyed having an editor and press to curate this selection.
“Having an editor and press want to do a ‘Selected’ has been great as I get a new book and don’t have to write new stories.”
This approach allowed him to witness an evolution in his storytelling, with earlier tales rooted more locally, often in the western regions of Canada and the USA. His later stories venture into international settings, weaving intricate narratives across Europe and Asia.
Jarman’s writing has a distinctive flair, characterized by a blend of vivid imagery, a rich narrative style, and a penchant for exploring the human psyche.
He is unafraid to delve into the depths of human experience, often focusing on characters who grapple with the aftermath of life-altering events.
As he put it in the interview, “My brain works well in shorter forms; it just does. You can pack in a lot of implications in a short story, often more than comes in an inflated novel.”
This preference for short stories allows Jarman to explore themes of aftermath, trauma, and cause-and-effect relationships that define many of his narratives.
In Burn Man, readers will encounter a myriad of themes and recurring motifs, such as knives, drowning, travel, love, and the complexities of human relationships.
Jarman’s exploration of these elements is often infused with humor, making some scenes strikingly funny even in the midst of darkness. His use of music as a thematic backdrop further adds depth to his stories, with references to artists like Hank Williams, Cat Power, and Johnny Cash sprinkled throughout his prose. His eclectic influences range from John Dos Passos to Cormac McCarthy, revealing the breadth of literary inspiration that informs his work.
However, it’s important to note that Burn Man is not without its challenges for readers. Jarman’s writing is unconventional and demands careful attention. Some stories appear obscure or disjointed, potentially leaving readers confused or frustrated.
Burn Man is a testament to Jarman’s mastery of language and storytelling. It offers a diverse array of narratives, ranging from local to global, and examines the complexities of the human condition.
With its unconventional style and dark themes, Burn Man remains a compelling and thought-provoking work that deserves recognition for its artistic merit.
Jarman’s ability to explore aftermath, trauma, and the human experience within the short story format is a testament to his prowess as a writer, making Burn Man a valuable addition to contemporary literature.