THE MAYFLY

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Rogers’ tales offer unexpected approaches to familiar subjects such as love and family. “The Young Man and the Mountain,” for example, presents a sort of love triangle involving Aaron, a road-racing cyclist; his partner, Maria; and the mountain on which a cycling record was set. As Aaron’s desire for greatness grows, his inability to be intimate with Maria does not worry him. The title story, “The Mayfly,” follows the titular insect’s search for love from nymph through adulthood. Along the way, Rogers effectively uses Shakespearean references (“Shall he compare her mouth to a mulcher? It art more omnivorous and more economical”) and macabre humor (mayflies “fall back into the river, where they are met by rising bass,” which causes “Crowd-fed panic. Save-thyself panic. Hollow-out-thy-mother-to make-a canoe panic”) to represent the human frenzy to find someone at all costs. In “The Unbridled Estimation of Racehorses,” Ernie, a man who has a crush on his co-worker, Julie, intriguingly imagines significant life events, such as a date, as if he were a horse competing in a derby; when Julie says he’s “refreshing” and “special,” Ernie sees himself as an underdog winning a big race. In the longest piece, Man of Letters, a man named Eugene returns to his family home in a Nevada mining town during the late 1860s in a tale told in the form of letters detailing the protagonist’s guilt over failing to live up to the expectations of his father, now partially paralyzed by a stroke. This novella, at 118 pages in length, might have been a bit more impressive if it stood on its own instead of as part of a collection; as it stands, its epistolary form seems slow and awkward in close proximity to faster-paced fiction.

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