If you can’t have a fantasy, what’s the point of writing a book? –Haruki Murakami
Making your way through One Last Xanax, Oliver Miller’s new collection of fifteen short stories, you will meet a man who repairs butterflies for a living, a couple who’ve decided to tear down the walls of their home after a too-realistic paint job renders it invisible, and a mirror who goes for a cross-country journey.
Miller’s stories vary and shift from these magical realistic tales, written in the tradition of STET favorites Aimee Bender and Haruki Murakami, to more traditional personal reflections. “Alone at Night” is a single page appreciation of the peacefulness of late night solitude. “The Problem (One Last Xanax)” gets inside the head of a young man who can’t sleep, unable to stop obsessing over a scowl that an attractive girl gave him at a concert earlier that night.
These are quick, simple reads that approach the loneliness of city life with a sense of escapism, wonder, and fantasy. In one of my favorite pieces “The Bridge,” a man chases a mysterious doppelganger over a bridge into a busy metropolis until he eventually disappears. Miller expertly displays his powers of tension and mystery here, giving the entire scene a dreamy feeling.
“The Mirror” cunningly tackles the problem of consuming so much media that the real world starts to lose its luster. The Mirror, an actual mirror who goes on a cross-country journey, sees the world as the literal embodiment of “America the Beautiful” (“sunsets and moonsets over ochre-tinted valleys; fields of grain, the individual strands of grain like so many fibers, like so many flowers.”). But after vegging out on TV for a few hours one evening the Mirror has trouble distinguishing between the real life beauty he sees and the images he’s already experienced on the screen. “Now he could no longer see things freshly, for the first time,” Miller writes. “If he saw a canyon, he was reminded of a canyon from TV, and the two images overlaid.”
It’s worth noting that Miller’s book of fiction is the latest in a slew of e-publications from Thought Catalog, the online diary recording the millennial experience. After browsing other releases on online dating, confidence, and porn (none without some pretty heavy navel-gazing) Miller’s stories are a refreshing change in perspective. Perhaps the only misleading thing about the ebook is the title “One Last Xanax”; its pill-popping name doesn’t quite convey the level of imagination and surrealism contained within.