When you think of Los Angeles, what comes to mind? Most people see a kaleidoscopic image of vibrant glamour, broken dreams, infinite variety, and cheap thrills. Having grown up in Hollywood, Joseph Sutton brings his expertise in the grind and shine of thrill seeking and small wonders from Los Angeles to the context of all life in The Immortal Mouth, his first collection of short stories.
Any reader devouring these stories can’t help but tag along for the ride as Sutton recounts freshly re-imagined tales from personal experience in this fast-paced, reckless vision of survival, fame, and life lesson. Like familiar strangers, Sutton’s characters strike you with the voices of common men attempting to make sense of life’s complexity, often left in the end with a new set of questions instead of easy answers.
Yet the unknown in these tales is what allows the imagination to thrive, only framed by a Hollywood flair for dramatic endings: a man’s vivid imaginings of a nuclear bomb while waiting for his car to be fixed; a couple encouraged by the burgeoning love affair of familiar friends reinstate their own affections at the bar in which they first met; a man who has lost his fiancee and his career runs into a wealthy friend and both travel off into the sunset; and a boy’s love of baseball shows him how he can contribute to history from his own youthful perspective. All these stories remind us that a happy ending is only what we make of it.
Two stories about the author’s real life meetings with his mentor, William Saroyan, round out this collection of distinctly individual American tales that chronicle the adventures of unlikely travel mates, the aura of a bustling Mexican town, the freedom of cross-country road trips, and the eternal love of the athletic game. But more so, this collection could be considered distinctly LA in flavor: among famous UCLA football players, superstar fathers, quirky saleswomen looking for talent, and obsessive materialists who’ll attach themselves to anything from a boat to a beautiful mouth. Each story flows at the speed of life, leaving readers grasping for a small chance at immortality. —Jane Park, Amazon book reviewer