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Mount Appetite

by Bill Gaston

Bill Gaston’s Mount Appetite is an unsettling collection of 12 short stories that plunges readers into a morass of unfulfilled desires, broken hearts, and lives overwhelmed to the point of destruction by chemical and emotional addiction. In a series of e-mails to a court psychiatrist, a father tries to justify using pot to medicate his 12-year-old daughter suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Racked with cancer and cirrhosis of the liver, a professional taster for breweries and vineyards discovers, on the eve of his death, the ultimate taste sensation. A small-town faith healer, who has tried to live by the motto “Generosity is the virtue that produces peace,” discovers that his local community has been robbing him blind.

Gaston nimbly leads us, in Dantesque fashion, through the fraught emotional terrain that one-time B.C. resident Malcolm Lowry dubbed Mount Appetite – “a noble cataloguing of the many kinds of human desire. A portrait of passions. A rainbow of hungers.” But Gaston’s catalogue is, ultimately, anything but noble. Those obsessed with Mount Appetite end up, more often than not, broken and shattered by even the dream of scaling its heights.

In this, his fourth collection of short fiction, Gaston shows his mastery of the short story form. He’s to be particularly commended for his ability to lead the reader so deeply into these 12 unique lives that we can almost, like the narrator of “The Alcoholist,” taste them.