"Insanity by Increments, Stories," a collection of short stories by Alaric Cabiling, takes its title from the last story in the book, but it might describe the reader if you decide to pull an all-nighter and read this volume in one sitting.
Cabiling's stories are grounded in one of the long traditions of American short stories, from Melville's "Bartleby" to the Montana of Richard Ford: lonely men at odds with bleak landscapes, traumatized by a childhood that was often violent, and always lacking true emotional warmth. These narrators are frequently writers, artists, young men who are capable of creating their own strange stage settings so that even within this tradition, they come off as memorable.
Some of Cabiling's protagonists live prosaic lives, some are definitely out on the fringe. The photographer of dead beauty queens in "Frailty" is as proud of his aesthetic skill and success as is the novelist in "Dulcinea," and Cabiling eases us through these nightmarish sequences by tossing in some Latin American magic realism. The tone throughout many of the stories is that of a surrealist move, where one absurd scene after the other continues to mount toward some dark inevitability. The endless days slipping away in a "wash of gray" against a pale sky are contrasted by closing time at motel bars, dark, gaudy rooms inhabited by people who do not really belong there—people on their way to and from somewhere else. You cannot help but be impressed by the author's ability to establish scene and pace within the first few paragraphs of his stories.
Review by John Nicolas, Bookreview.com