Wild Like That, Review by Ananta Pancham

"Wild Like That"by Tish Benson Publishes by Tribes' Fly By Night Press 173 Pages

Although Tish Benson's Wild Like That offers the reader a very contemporary and poignant collection of stories, her often conversational and cognizant writing style poses many problems when trying to follow the plot, character development, and overall theme developed within each piece. As the author tries to convey the essence of one's everyday struggles amidst society's burgeoning tendencies toward superficiality and prejudice, one is very often lost in prose which presents a gross lack of coherent transitory sequences, adequate flashbacks, and much needed punctuation.

In such narratives as "Berta's Hairstory" and "Daughters", for example, the reader is more engaged in the tedium of having to distinguish exactly who is speaking to whom, what subject is being addressed, and how the events correlate with others posited within the piece. Thus, instead of being what many critics may call a "refreshing dose of reality," Benson's urban stream of consciousness technique is more of a deterrent, where the reader is left confused and more likely to move on to the next story rather than attempt to differentiate between the fragments of thought used to compose the stanzas.

That is not to say, however, that Benson does not have one or two triumphant literary moments. In a piece entitled, "Regulah Niggah Gal From the South," the author is able to accurately convey the very feelings of inadequacy one experiences when placed within our more modern standards and stereotypes, as well as the effort needed to rise above one's own battles with self-esteem and social class. Benson states, " -- my weapon of choice is my tongue and my pen," and she subsequently uses both well in this instance, as the reader is not only able to relate to the fluidity of the words, but to the situations and emotions captured within them.

Benson's "Fifth Ward Email," may similarly attach itself to the sympathies of the reader by presenting a comedic epistle from an angry wife to the woman who is trying to "steal" her husband. While we may laugh at the language used, we may also applaud this individual's honesty and determination, as well as her immense display of pride in a perhaps "all too familiar" scenario. In a novel that often singularly disparages Southern attitudes and conduct, Benson's heroines are fully prepared to defend themselves against attacks spurred by their seemingly "corrupt" male counterparts. "Usin my sword in judgement," she declares, "deception means destruction -- yeah he'll feel it/ my wrath and vengeance."

Lightly treading upon the path of more famous revolutionaries as Beaumarchais and Goethe, Benson also seeks to define the quintessential couple in consecutive pieces "Thila" and "Ralph," whereby the female of this generation is assertive, intuitive, and often more rational than her seemingly ambiguous husband. Written in two different voices, hers Southern and his "less so," the juxtaposition of these two narratives is easily the author's best effort within the novel. As both perspectives are presented, Benson's language finally seems to move smoothly around the established facts in order to build upon and depict the impulses of two distinct characters while simultaneously molding a solid, albeit dysfunctional, image of a family. In addition to facilitating a few comedic chuckles, "Thila" and "Ralph" are the embodiment of literary brilliance, as Benson explores the elements of life, love, and general relationships which should have been present in the rest of the book.

Steve CannonTribes