Review–Winterswim

The following was published January 6 at Atticus Review.

REDEMPTION UNDER ICE: A REVIEW OF RYAN W. BRADLEY’S WINTERSWIM

WinterswimImport2

Bradley’s spare prose creates a strong and palpable reality. His characters are true to their demographic: a high school boy obsessed with tits and the young female body generally; a small-town tart-turned-starlet in all her narcissistic glory; a strung out Pastor with a deviant sense of The Rapture and his van-driving meth dealer. These characters and others are well-drawn in the plainest of terms. And the premise is simple enough. Pastor Long gains his victims’ trust through the church youth group. Then he gets them alone. Then he gets them high. He fucks them, it seems over the course of several encounters. He elicits their commitment to Christ. Then he kills them.

I liked a lot of Winterswim, and offer this possible redemption to my main criticism (read the full review): take the novella as a political statement. After all, the story takes place in Wasilla, Alaska, the town that gave us Sarah Palin. In fact they made her mayor—TWICE. It would be unkind to suggest that everybody in Wasilla is a knucklehead (only 651 people voted for her the first time; 909 the second). Still more said “yes” than said “no” to having the mother of Trig and Track as their mayor. We all may have been better off if they’d elected another of the town’s famous denizens—porn “actress” April Flowers.

In the final analysis Winterswim is the product of a talented writer who’s given us a violent and explosive cross between Boys Life magazine and Penthouse Forum. It treats some serious topics: addiction, redemption, rape, abuse. It even teases out a rare and special Native mythology overwritten by Christianity. But it’s glossy. It’s porn, with a bit of plot and backstory.

Winterswim
by Ryan W. Bradley
Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2014
172 pages, $11.26
Reviewed by Ben East

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