John Donne wrote, “Death be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so.…” In Let Us Now Speak of Extinction, death is mighty and proud, but while it is frequently a source of bemusement, it is also one of extraordinary amusement in the hands of an accomplished fabulist and allegorist the likes of Michael C. Keith. Indeed, this unconventional collection of short fiction might just as easily be titled Let Us Now Speak of the Human Condition in All of Its Divergent Manifestations, because that is its essential subject. Keith’s new work probes the full range of emotions and behavior and redefines the term dark humor in the process.
Unsurprisingly, particularly given this is a collection with well over two hundred stories, topics and narrators vary greatly, as do tone and style. What is surprising is that the author can pack so much humor into a volume of work where the grim, unifying themes are death and mortality. Time and again, he shows that humor can be found in just about any situation—even in a prison cell on death row.
—Nicholas Litchfield, Center for Literary Publishing
Keith’s opus possesses shades of Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, and a New Yorker cartoon for extraterrestrials. Let Us Now Speak of Extinction is eerily addicting.
Michael C. Keith’s short pieces seem relatively benign at first, but wait a moment and you feel the snap of his literary whip. Keith subverts things with a smile––like putting a dagger in the back of the iconic Jack Kerouac by posing whether his girlfriend was a better writer than this Beat patriarch. He brings an amused eye to our inevitable demise, our strutting and posturing before the black void. Keith is a writer who can shake your hand or use a well-appointed whoopee cushion to blow the hot air out from where the sun don’t shine. He keeps you honest. He keeps you thinking. He keeps you reading.
–– Doug Holder
Michael C. Keith’s collection of ‘quasi-philosophical rants in micros’ is witty, jazzy, shrewd, and a pure pleasure. When an author can grab you, time and time again, with one-paragraph miniatures, it is because that author has all the gifts we look for in writing: facility with language, humor, intelligence and engagement with the world. Add a sense of the absurd and you have a collection that rewards close reading and re-reading. And here’s a bit to carry home with you from this collection: ‘death is like Play-doh.’ I believe this and I got it from Michael Keith’s delightfully cockeyed worldview, for which I thank him.
–– Corey Mesler
Keith’s great title sets the tone for his epic collection of flash and micro fiction. His stories are witty, thought provoking, frequently tongue-in-cheek and always interesting. With many short-short fiction books we can read one story, put the book down and come back to it and do the same—read, wash, repeat; but like trying to eat one jellybean from a bowl you’re back again reading another story and another unable or unwilling to put this book down. Michael C. Keith is not only a proficient writer but a fine, capable one. His views on the obvious will give you another way of looking and thinking of the obvious. I am a fan of his writing. Read one Keith book and you’ll end up reading another and most likely another.
–– Paul Beckman
The subtitle to Michael C. Keith’s Let Us Now Speak of Extinction––“A Quasi-Philosophical Rant on Death and Assorted Other Amusing Things”––captures the shifting tone of this collection of aphoristic mini-fictions that range from absurd to zany with plenty of goofy and provocative in between. These darkly-witty snapshots capture the author’s wry sense of humor and reveal his eye for quirky detail. I enjoyed the multifaceted nature of this book, its variety of pieces (and tones of voice and subjects). Rarely a page long, these compressed narratives display a kinship to both prose poems and flash fictions, and with close to two hundred and fifty to choose from there’s something here for every reader’s sensibility.
–– Allen Wier
Let Us Now Speak of Extinction
by Michael C. Keith
$21.95, paperback, 254 pp.