The short fictions collected in Public Works explore the extremes of human nature and literary technique. From the manic, single-sentence fiction "Public Sentence" to the carefully structured and plot-twisting "We Stand Here, Swinging Cats," Grimes' stories have an idiosyncratic and associative quality-nothing follows predictably from anything, and beginnings never foreshadow ends. While reading, one has the sense that, despite recognizable voices and themes, this imagination seems alien, as though divvying up and parceling out the world by its own rules. In "Glue Trap," a one-legged shopkeeper offers expert instruction in the art of one-on-one combat with a rat. In "Making Love: a Translation," the stream of consciousness creates a fiction as simple as Hemingway, as wistful and dissociative as Julio Cortazar. Ultimately, Grimes' stories question the grids and schemas we impose on "reality." His is a formal defiance of the tyranny of traditional narrative, expressed with a thematic daring that moves between the contemplation of ordinary buckets and high art.
"A brilliant pastiche, a generous feast of imagination and language, a
wild, word-drenched ride, Public Works heralds a fabulous new voice in
fiction. Christopher Grimes is a wonder."
"The stories in Public Works have as much honesty and pathos as they do wry perceptions about themselves and the nature of fiction. In their droll and fascinating self-consciousness, not only do these pieces inspect the intimate mechanisms of creating fiction, but also the bizarre (real) world literature inhabits, from lit mag offices and soirees, to readers' unconscious expectations and needs."—Cris Mazza
From "Customs in a Developing Country: a prefatory story"
If you've arrived with animal, vegetable or mineral, declare the full name of the animal, vegetable or mineral that you have arrived here with. Zucchini was once individually wrapped in tissue paper and imported here from Japan in beautiful cedar boxes like Havana cigars. Now we stink of zucchini. Where did it come from? Who can answer? An elegant Japanese girl carries the seeds stuck in her molar for ten thousand miles, spits it out onto our native soil, and boom, bloom! an invading species, a predatory plant. Now open your bags for me.
We're considering having this printed up and distributed during the final descent on in-bound flights. You'll read no pleases, no thank yous, no pretty colored snapshots of places that simply can't be missed, just The Facts: Courtesy of Our Municipal Government, who reminds you to watch yourself, keep an eye on your things. Recall here the Honeymooners with the stars Audrey Meadows and Jackie Gleason, wherein vacuous Ralph Cramden says to pragmatic wife Alice, Don't say it, don't say it, don't say it, Alice! and her reply, which she must repeat over and over again to pierce the darkness of his terrible selfishness: I told you so!
Listen to someone who knows. Experience tells me that pragmatism is still the most viable of philosophies. Stripped from your shoulder, your camera will just as easily image another's memories as your own. Personal identification can be defaced with a pen knife in thirty seconds flat, your name associated with the concussion and heat that one hundred out-bound passengers welcome as the Epiphany while plowing a fiery furrow into a field of sorghum. Picked from your pocket, your money will surely be spent on things that you would go your whole life denying yourself. In one such story, a woman's house keys are lifted from her and couriered over-night to a contact in her place of origin. Her home is ransacked, and everything she owned finds its way back here by means of shoulder bags, millet sacks, tennis balls, prosthetic limbs, parcel-post agencies and several combination of the nine orifices. In another story, things don't take nearly as long. A man's address book is rifled through, phone calls made, household appliances charged to his account.
Once removed from your person, your most private possessions will be fondled by any number of questionable characters and absorbed-taken separately they are only bits and pieces after all-into our local economy and general public at large. Have no hope for recovery. You will think you recognize your pajama bottoms worn by someone as pants, but you will not be able to say with certainty that they're yours. So many people will have fingered your things with so many different intentions that they will be become nearly unrecognizable things. Foreign things. Things, as I've said, that are no longer yours. The faded movie starlet Zsa Zsa Gabor on holiday here many years ago stole from her chamber maid our traditional toast and salutation-ta!-but in her mouth, even to our ears, it is nearly unrecognizable.