Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, by Nancy Stohlman. Boston, Massachusetts: Big Table Publishing, October 2018. 104 pages. $15.00, paper.
Excerpt: “If you’ve ever stood and stared at yourself in a funhouse mirror and saw yourself as someone you don’t recognize, distorted or with two faces, then you have a pretty good idea of how Stohlman’s latest collection of oddities takes you through the gambit of freakshow possibilities in each of her stories. Stohlman, a performer herself, speaks of a childhood growing up with a circus clown for a mother and a father who seems to be obsessed with placing in the Guinness Book of World Records for various silly attempts.
Although the obvious thread connecting these stories together seems to be Stohlman’s quirky, clown-angst teenage years followed by confusing adulthood scenes, there’s another side to this thread that runs parallel to this theme. Much like the two-faced lady or the conjoined twins, Stohlman seems to be running alongside of her twin from another dimension, a more popular, put together version. But with anything that reflects bigger, better, and brighter, Stohlman summons emotions in each piece that can’t be blurred or escaped from. That’s what makes this mixed bag of oddities about as real as it can get.