It’s just like Michael Hemmingson to be gone. Just when I wanted to thank him for his black Valentine’s Day messages.
There’s a world of hurt in his collection Pictures of Houses with Water Damage (Black Lawrence Press, 2010). It’s a numbed kind of hurt, the kind of pain felt after a breakup, whether you wanted to break up or not—or didn’t know what you wanted either way.
The numbed pain Hemmingson awakens can’t be cured with booze, with sex, with a new affair, though every one of his characters seems to try. They get an A+ for trying. But it’s the collection itself that holds the numbing properties and brings the cure.
The 21 stories show in kaleidoscopic form the life, as lives, of an individual—could be a man, a woman, both—confronting the fallout of unrepentant infidelity, unwanted pregnancy, alcohol dependence, failed marriage, more. We watch lives wrecked by emotional pain, rendered faithfully through a panorama of eyes: the cuckold, the cheatwife, the unforgotten wounded vet boyfriend, the lonely lurking neighbor, the half-grown child, the honest husband, the roommate.