Handwritten Tales

What Is Taboo

Fiction - Cultural
188 Pages
Reviewed on 04/02/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Kathryn Bennett for Readers' Favorite

Handwritten Tales: What Is Taboo by Jim D Buchanan explores how we as humans have a deep-seated need to communicate. We communicate in many ways these days between text, email and phone communications, although some ways have fallen by the wayside. Handwritten communication is one such victim and this book explores that somewhat forgotten art once more, walking through journeys and stories that are both taboo and ordinary. As someone who collects fountain pens and still loves the feel of beautiful cotton paper beneath her fingers, I can appreciate a book that is titled Handwritten Tales. This book delivers exactly what it promises: stories told to the reader in a lovely creative way. Author Jim D Buchanan has hit on something that is not only an interesting read through the content of the stories but in the way that it is laid out for the reader to enjoy.

This book really does suck you in and make you think about human nature and your own set of ideals. There are things that we as humans prefer to ignore, impulses and things that walk a certain line and do not cross it. Yet what if we did? I really enjoy books and TV shows that make me explore that darker side. I call it shining a flashlight into the darker, shadowed corners of myself. The series Dexter always made me do that and I got the same feeling with this book. This is not a typical read and it certainly is a roller coaster that takes the reader through all the ups and downs and dark tunnels there may be. If you like a book that does this and will make you truly wonder about things, Handwritten Tales is the book for you. Highly recommended.

Grant Leishman

Handwritten Tales: What is Taboo by Jim D Buchanan is a collection of some short and some not so short tales that seek to explore the areas of life that we tend to ignore and pretend don’t exist – that we’d rather not talk about. The author wants us to consider the darker side of human nature, the evil that often exists in full view, yet that many of us choose to ignore. He presents a litany of sometimes disgusting and sometimes sad tales that make us examine the motivation of humans and society. This book of short stories really does touch on the core essence of what it is to be human and what makes us tick.

As with any anthology, there are always stories that touch me more deeply than others or that I could call my favorites. This was no exception and two tales stood out in particular for me as accurately portraying the sense of frustration and evil that exists in the world and our inability to do anything about it. Oklahoma Bypass allows the author to reflect on the contribution to the country by immigration and the positive effect immigrants have on the communities into which they are assimilated. Given the current state of play in the US at present and the anti-immigrant rhetoric around the world, I found one simple passage to be very telling and moving. The main character is discussing his Oklahoma relatives and describes them as professional and practiced takers. He then compares that to your average immigrant who left owners and controllers behind to come here. The whole story was very moving to me. I also was moved by The Funeral in which the main character recounts what it is like to attend a funeral where you are not wanted nor welcomed by the rest of the family – he does this in reference to his own mother’s funeral. I found this whole story profound and emotional.

I’m not usually a fan of short story anthologies, as I often feel too much meat and character development is missed in the brief telling of a story. However, Jim D Buchanan really does break through the periphery to deeply dissect the human condition and expose it for us all to see. There are many more fascinating tales here that pithily sum up the human condition at both its best and its worst. I can highly recommend this read.

Christian Sia

Handwritten Tales: What Is Taboo by Jim D Buchanan is a collection of unusually written stories covering a wide range of cultural themes. This collection relates the narrator’s journey along a not-so-frequently traveled road, one that is filled with wisdom, insight, and humor that keep the reader turning page after page. The opening offers a powerful image of the road, but also creates a scene introducing the reader to the unique atmosphere that permeates the narrative, the questing drive in the characters. The chapter is titled “Open Road” and it starts with “Dark as night could be but for the headlights. There was small light from the dash, lighting his face like a ghoul. I had no clue where we were. Just a road on a dark night. There was no world beyond the dim dome created by twin headlights.” The adventure starts here and explores the lives of the characters, their moments of frustration, and the light that flows from their broken humanity.

The setting is beautifully explored with images of the road and stuff like old trucks that haul hay or trailers full of boxes of something someone ordered online. Jim D Buchanan has a classic style of writing, but the prose, composed of short and well-crafted sentences, reads well. The dialogues are introduced right away and there is great realism in them. I particularly loved how the author uses dialogue to enhance character and build tension, exploring the different moments and introducing themes like friendship and the cultural elements that fill the narrative. While readers will enjoy the characters, the insightful writing, and the author’s unique skill in conjuring powerful images, the beauty of the storytelling craft got my full attention.