Lost Positives Review

by Marie Lecrivain


A bizarre way to introduce a book, but the question hangs over my head! More accurately, I wonder "what was the point of it all?" after slogging my way through John Cotrona’s Lost Positives (2005 Fractious Press), a pocket-sized (literally) collection of short stories by an author who views life through a post-punk lens.

Told from the POV of an ex-musician, cabdriver, and literary autodidact, Cotrona introduces the reader to what might be deemed the more "pivotal" moments of the narrator’s life after leaving Boston. The problem... there is no resolution. Starting with the compressed narrative "Fishin," to the final installment "Manual," each story takes the reader on a tedious, but sometimes entertaining nickel tour through one man’s disjointed memories: living with f ****ed up nihilist roommates ("Storyboy Gone"); dealing with the darker side of cab driving in Vegas ("Long Hours and Bad Pay"); adventuring through the Pacific Northwest with a colorful psycho ("Double the Guff"); falling into punch-drunk love with an attractive bassist in an Irish Bar in New Orleans ("R.F.P. in the F.Q" - my personal favorite); and marking time with a place-holder girlfriend ("One For Cloudy").

Cotrona’s clever with the turn of a phrase, which he often dovetails with an appropriate touch of irony, as he outlines the personality of Allen, from "Storyboy Gone:"

Allen was a slim, blond ghost trying to haunt the earth, but for his silence, meekness, and lightness of touch, went unnoticed.

Cotrona’s witty descriptions and zeitgeist candor are the saving graces of Lost Positives. Non-linear narratives are difficult to construct, (as in the films Memento or Run, Lola, Run) and Cotrona fails miserably in this regard with meandering internal dialogue, and disregard for timely revelation, the biggest example of this being when I found out why the narrator left Boston to wander through whatever state of the Union he felt like for so many years... it’s just dropped into my metaphorical lap like an unwanted child that I have to babysit for the next couple of hours, with no warning, suspense, or my biggest pet peeve - NO RESOLUTION!

I am left with the impression that Cotrona, although a talented writer, decided to put this collection of short stories together because 80% of them were published in some cool zines, and possibly it just seemed like "it was the right thing to do." Well, lot of writers (myself included) have made that mistake.

But that is just my opinion. Since Lost Positives is, as I said, "life viewed through a post-punk lens," then Cotrona has almost succeeded in that regard, forgetting of course, that we all have the option to grow up sometime. Even Burgess’s Alex from A Clockwork Orange (the original British version with 21 chapters, not the American version with only 20) outgrew his destructive adolescent existence, and then moved on, sadder, wiser, and less of an asshole. The same can’t be said for anti-hero in Lost Positives. Which makes me sad I can no longer mosh... too hard on the bones!