The History of Vegas
Author: Jodi Angel
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Number of pages: 192
“The History of Vegas” is the debut short fiction collection from Jodi Angel. This selection of stories feature a variety of adolescent experiences; sexuality, social deviance, human awakening, emotional trauma and conflict along with many other intense moments are explored and we are left to wonder what impact these events have had on the lives of the protagonists, all we get is a glimpse, as raw and real as it may be, into the minds of each person.
With amazing skill, Jodi Angel thrusts you into the lives of her characters so deftly that you do not notice the absence of developing each character. There is no separation between you and the narrator because each scene is so vividly written, in atmosphere and setting, and each protagonist is so relatable that you see yourself actively in the story.
Jodi sets her stories in locals that almost every reader can recognize as a place they have lived in or maybe just visited as a youth in America. She introduces us to people that we have all known, if not by name by behavior. She makes us fall in love with a room in a house, a bed in a shack, she gives us a reason to care about the outcasts of society and the poor ignorant child of abuse. By describing a person’s hand, she allows our mind to paint the rest of the picture and when that hand grabs a coffee cup of Johnnie Walker Black, the picture in our minds become complete.
Jodi doesn’t simply tell a story, she shows us moments in the life of her creations, moments that are often life changing and so clearly presented that they stick with you long after you have finished the written word. One of the amazing things about how Jodi presents her stories is that you are not given the final act, you are not told how the stories end. It is up to you as the reader to finish the story in your mind, to complete the narrative as you have lived the story in your life. You become as much the subject as the voyeur.
One of my personal favorites is “The Skin From The Muscle”; the story of a young man left alone in a cabin in the woods because of a hunting accident earlier in the day. Two women stumble upon him as it starts to rain hard, high in the mountains. With no working phone to call for help, he offers them a place to stay for a while, pours some coffee and does his best to entertain. In eighteen pages, we see this young man drink like a man, help dress a deer, have his first fuck, and learn what it is to be a fool. The story ends with him smelling blood on the porch. If this story does not demonstrate the mastery of the short story that Jodi Angle possesses, I do not know what possibly could.