Arthur Bradford’s Turtleface and Beyond is one of my favorite collections of short stories, mostly because of the consistent narrative voice in our narrator, Georgie. Bradford creates for a bizarre, but believable cast of characters and the even more bizarre situations they find themselves. Most of the narrators tell their stories in such sincere ways that they become endearing, despite the questionable decisions they make.
Paddling down a remote meandering river, Georgie’s friend Otto decides to do something both spectacular and stupid: he scales a dizzying cliff, gets a good running start, and takes a great triumphant dive into the waters below. As his friends look on, Otto lands with an odd smack and is knocked unconscious, blood spilling from his nose and mouth. Georgie arrives on the scene first and sees a small turtle, its shell cracked, floating just below the water’s surface.
Otto and the turtle survive the collision, though both need help, and Georgie finds his compassion torn between the two. This opening story, “Turtleface,” sets the tone for the rest of Arthur Bradford’s strange and marvelous collection. Turtleface and Beyond features prosthetically limbed lovers, a snakebitten hitchhiker turned wedding crasher, a lawyer at the end of his rope, a menage a tois at Thailand’s Resort Tik Tok, and a whole host of near disasters, narrow escapes, and complicated victories, all narrated by Georgie, who struggles with his poor decisions but finds redemption in the telling of each of his tales. At the center of even the most wry characters’ most outrageous circumstances, there’s a heart beating with great generosity and warmth. Hilarious and high-fueled, Turtleface and Beyond marks the return of a beloved and unforgettable voice in fiction.
Bradford’s stories explore human nature, often in relationship to other people, and even more often, in relationship to animals, creating short fiction unlike any stories published today. I would encourage you to enter this odd world for awhile and find refuge in a few brutally sincere and outlandish tales.
If you haven’t read anything by Arthur Bradford or you simply like strange tales and are interested in a kindhearted, but misdirected narrator, consider Turtleface and Beyond.
It’s one collection of short stories that I can read again and again and be delighted all over again.
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Check out a few other works by Bradford:
Dogwalker is another collection of short-stories that casts a slew of outcasts and misfits, mutants, three-legged dogs, catlike circus people, chainsaw-wielding performing artists, and dog-people whose adventures and strange lives and decisions will keep you reading until the end.
Bradford creates a marvelous world in his children’s book, “Benny’s Brigade,” about two sisters who discover a tiny walrus wriggling around during their recess. This tiny walrus misses home among the water; however, so the girls must help him along his journey home.