by Robert Levin
Genre: Short Stories / Hybrid
Print Length: 288 pages
Reviewed by Elizabeth Zender
In a brazen exploration of fiction and the self, Going Outside opens the mind for those brave enough to face it.
Robert Levin’s collection of short stories, Going Outside, is not for the faint of heart. Levin reaches into the darkest corners of the mind to produce situations so shocking that they border on hilarity. Truths masquerade as fictions within these pages; the writing is verbose if only to distract the reader from the reality in which they live.
At first glance, the stories may seem crass and meant solely for entertainment, but if the reader chooses to delve deeper, an understanding is created. For example, Levin includes a story about having sex with an obese woman named Peggie. The narrator explains that his agenda in sleeping with this woman is to ensure that he has slept with a woman in every body type category, a goal of his. The story itself comes across as insensitive, and it puts women into boxes to check. Their sexuality and experiences seem to aid the development of men in this story. The absolute absurdity of the story may be missed by the common man, but Levin’s writing deserves a closer look. The ludicrous nature of the story itself shows insight into opinions largely held by society for decades.
Many of Levin’s tales are preposterous and cover topics that most would shy away from due to their dark nature. “Dogs Days” is a particularly horrific story which you will have to read for yourself to believe. In reading this book, you need to keep in mind the title; many of us need to literally go outside and breathe in reality. It is commentary on the world by way of outrageous details. It cannot be taken at face value; doing that would be a disservice to the author and to the self.
Further along in the collection, you will find nonfiction—commentary from the author to the reader directly. I implore you to stick with the book to get to this section. It is a rare occasion indeed when you get to read both the fictional accounts of things and the author’s explanation in the same space. Levin takes the time to reach out to the reader and explain more on his perspective. Clearly, the meanings of these stories are more than the denotation of the words on the page.
Engage the cleverest parts of your mind and crack open the “Commentary” section; you’ll find yourself enlightened.
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