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Marc Nesbitt: Gigantic



Author: Marc Nesbitt
Publisher: Grove

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The characters in Gigantic, Marc Nesbitt's marvelously assured debut short-story collection, are equal parts wise men and louts. They wander through in-between states, stuck between moments of bewilderment and clarity, sifting through the nebulous identity politics of biracial backgrounds and reconciling various forms of failure. The book opens with a story about two human lawn jockeys—one black, the other half-black—hired as party props by a white meatpacking tycoon. Resigned to degradation but not to subservience, they stage a lazy revolution out of boredom more than defiance, ultimately involving the tycoon's daughter in a sexual tryst and ending with a window-smashing chair toss that packs all the punch of Do The Right Thing. Most of Gigantic's stories deal with grim, often violent subject matter, but Nesbitt's nuanced approach gives them the lingering effects of slow-burn contemplation. In a style that evokes Norman Mailer's tough/tender brogue and the subtler reaches of street-slam poetry, Nesbitt writes about racial divisiveness and unbalanced relationships with purposeful grace. "Polly Here Somewhere" mourns the empowering confusion of waylaid youth, straining adolescent sexuality through playground politics and eighth-grade breakdancing parties. In "What Good Is You Anyway?" Nesbitt sizes up a rotting relationship between a father and son, who both "head through life furious toward Customer Service, hoping for some kind of refund." Calmly energetic and loaded with a startling amount of high-five-worthy metaphors, Gigantic is an engaging read that packs a lot of insight into a deceptively slim volume. More than anything, Gigantic's stories ruminate over the fateful consignment of difference. The book is populated with grizzled laborers, eroding lovers, white dreads, and ostracized mulattos, all teetering beneath the weight of specious dichotomies. The theme comes to a devastating conclusion in Gigantic's title story, about a fired zoo worker who winds up drunk at a Baltimore Orioles game, carrying a rock given to him by a caged elephant. Leaving the stadium, he engages a misbehaving young boy with a gesture that elegantly sums up the eerie echoes between animal behavior and human shortcomings. It's a sad and inspiring sendoff, and a perfectly tuned grace note for an accomplished debut that rages in the face of defeatism with a measured balance of frustration and serenity.