In his latest short story collection, “What if I Got Down on my Knees?,“ Tony Rauch brings an individual humor to tales of romantic misadventure.
Rauch explains that his characters are “people searching for contentment and companionship and adventure,” an accurate depiction creating a very relatable quality in sometimes fantastical situations.
“Many of the stories deal with loss or change, some are about escape — that is, seeing or trying to move beyond your present limitations,” Rauch said. “Some of the stories are just absurd situations, some with people not realizing they are longing for something.”
The opening story, “In the Dust,” centers around two men and their art — letting groups of dogs free to roam around public spaces, such as the grocery store, to create chaos. It is an interesting story and contains the subtly humorous characteristic that works so well for Rauch throughout his collection.
This short, eccentric tale is the perfect opening to his genre of story telling. “[“In the Dust”] had short, punchy lines and several short sections, so a reader does not get bogged down in it,” Rauch said.
Another standout is “Congratulations,” which as Rauch describes it, “is meant to be absurd.”
This absurdity works well, though. It imagines a life where the male narrator is pregnant but doesn’t realize it until an all-knowing stranger points it out. Beyond the exterior of the story, though, there lies a deeper meaning.
“[It] is…an example of life handing you something unexpected,” Rauch said. “It’s also about hidden possibilities and seeing beyond your present limitations. It’s also about me wondering why some things happen to some people and not others.”
“How You Felt When I Disappointed You” is a very short story that captures the dissolving of a friendship and the emotions that go along with it. Still containing Rauch’s defining quirks, this story stays much more grounded in reality. Not just focusing on a romantic relationship, he explores the different facets of human relationships in general, and from that, humanity as a whole.
“To me, if it’s modern art, then it’s open to interpretation, allowing different people to see different things in the same thing, or maybe find different meanings,” Rauch said. “I would rather have something be open to interpretation than prescribe a specific meaning or feeling.”
His stories allow for room on interpretation but always contain something more than that which is on the surface.
A common theme in Rauch’s stories seems to be that of the fantastical meeting the realities of life we all face on a daily basis. His execution of this is unique and each story feels like a singular creation, all coming together under Rauch’s distinct voice.
“For myself, the realistic and fantastical come from different places,” he said. “A high proportion of fantasy usually works best when placed in a fantasy context. But to me there is weirdness and oddity all around, and it usually becomes an obstacle to progressing along your path in that now you have to deal with some weird business if it is presented.”
The point in time where weirdness and poignancy meet is where you can find “What if I Got Down on my Knees?“ Give this fast read a chance and then check out his four other short story collections.