Look! Look! Feathers by Mike Young
Mike Young studied in Eugene, Oregon, a place where hacky sacks and trail mix grows on trees. Eugene, Oregon is filled with ultimate Frisbee champions, creative writers, and leftover hippies. In other words, they are my typical readers and friends. Hopefully I can visit this enchanted land where the young go to retire. He grew up in Northern California in town called Oroville, a place so far from civilization that Ishi sought refuge there over a century ago.
‘Look! Look! Feathers’ is a celebration of the Pacific Northwest. Each little short story has a certain amount of humor, but more importantly heart. For Mike cares about these characters, works to make them into realistic representations of how people talk, act, and think. It can be tricky to write about your life, or people you used to know. But Mike pulls this off with flair in these efficient concise short stories, each one perfectly contained in its few pages.
There are twelve short stories, some lasting only two pages (like ‘The Peaches are Cheap’ and ‘No Such Thing as a Wild Horse’) and others expanding beyond twenty. I enjoyed a lot of this book, but around ‘Susan White and the Summer of the Game Show’ is when I got hit. Before then is perfectly fine, but that particular story serves as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for all that precedes it and all that follows it. It is a beautiful story, and after that I finished the book and re-began it afterwards.
Every character is fully developed, even if the story is short. Multiple characters take part in every story, but they never feel like stand-ins or hallow. Young lets their thoughts flood into the narrative and avoids clunky dialogue. Some of the short stories are nothing more than a ‘let me tell you this story while we’re driving back’ (Same Heart They Put You In). There is a casual sense of story-telling that makes the more surreal elements feel necessary, the internet nub being one particular example. Also, Roachmilk is the best name for a band ever. Roachmilk makes me long for a shitty garage band to call my own.
I have a habit of ruining short stories. So I’m not going to do that this time. Rather I want to say this is a great collection. It has everything I could hope for in a short story collection: humor, sadness, and a realistic portrayal of love, not the shitty kind, the kind of love where people are quiet about, where they don’t proclaim it from the mountaintops but show it in small tender gestures. Caring for nosebleeds and finger-sized children are just some examples.
After studying in Oregon he moved to the East Coast, to study at Amherst. Now he imparts knowledge on young budding writers in my current hometown, Baltimore, MD. He runs Magic Helicopter Press, Noo Journal, and writes non-troll-ish articles for HTML Giant (no mean feat). Mike Young is a great young man doing great young things.