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GiganticReview - Gigantic
by Marc Nesbitt
Grove Press, 2002
Review by Patricia Ferguson, Ph.D.
Apr 21st 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 17)

This book is a collection of ten fiction stories. Although the cover looks amateurish, the writing is fresh and creative. The stories are set in Baltimore, and the characters are all black or half-black (the photo of Nesbitt on the book jacket shows that he is also black). They are very real, down-to-earth characters who live what might be described as the fringe of American society. 

My favorite story is the one about a father and son, "What Good is You Anyway?" Although the specific details of the story are interesting, it is the almost universal theme about the difficulties of relationships between fathers and sons that Nesbitt so wonderfully captures. In this as in all his stories, the telling is funny and fresh.

In this story, the father and adult son live together. The father is rather uneducated, an alcoholic, unemployed ex-convict with so many drunk driving charges he has no license. But he is trying to be a father in the only way he knows how. The way the son sees it, "they don't have much to say to each other and never live up to each other's expectations." The son is the narrator in the story. He points out that his father is missing a leg, which gives him a reason to use metal crutches. To the son, the use of metallic crutches speaks of "disease ... permanence." The implication is that, for the son, this is an embarrassment.

The story is about two men, but he writes in a universal language that I relate to. Even though I am not a man, much of the story reminds me of my own relationship with my father. For instance, his father says, "Go get me something." Notice nothing in particular is being requested, just an order being given. My father, too, liked to give his children orders to wait on him. The father in this story uses his leg as an excuse, but the fact that he says "something," rather than a specific article suggests this is one of the ways he knows to relate to his son, albeit not the best of ways, but a way. The reader with a similar father may give pause here and wonder if that was how their own father was trying to be in relationship with their child.

Their other interactions reflect this as well. At one point the son notes that his father is about to give him advice, and then sites several rather pathetic attempts at how he does that. For instance, the father tells the son, "Don't do what I did."

"What's that?"

"Can't remember." The father is an alcoholic. He is trying to give some advice and as can be seen here, this is the best he can do, under the circumstances.

Another conversation. The son says, "I'm not stupid."

"But you do stupid things."

The son thinks to himself, 'every now and then he had a good point.' I found that funny. In fact, much of the way he presents a rather sad story is humorous. He describes someone who is allergic to pollen, as acting like had "swallowed a cat." Another example of humor is when he explains that his mother left him with his father, and that he is half-black.

"He's black, I'm half, but that's his fault 'cause his wife's white. Was white. I mean ex-wife. Mom's still white."

These may not be laugh out loud kinds of humorous exchanges, but to me, irony and sarcasm, when done well, can be very funny. And it is his humor that most draws me to this writer. The stories are short, but it is a sign of a great writer that he can tell the story with brevity. (Otherwise it's a long story).

I would recommend this book to all men, not just young, or black, or any other specific demographic detail, and I would also recommend it to women. Usually I prefer not to read books by men, simply because I often find that they lack character depth that I prefer, especially when describing women. In the case of Nesbitt, I found an exception to my rule.

© 2003 Patricia Ferguson

Dr. Patricia Ferguson is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of California, a freelance writer and editor, and an artist. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from San Diego State University and received her doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. Her publications include research on rape in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, several articles on nuclear medicine for nuclear medicine technologists, and an article on group therapy in The Reader's Guide to Social Sciences. She currently writes book reviews for several venues, has a chapter in "Girl Wars: Twelve Tried and True Strategies for Overcoming Female Bullying," (Fireside, 2003), and is an Editor-in-Chief for Apollo's Lyre, an online magazine for writers. She is also working on a book of memoirs.


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