“And after all, what is life without one great passion, one thing to live and die for?”
It was a few days past a year ago-- August 12th, 2011 to be exact--that I called Cannibal Nights: Pacific Stories, Volume II “Brutally beautiful. As noirishly dark as the deep depths of the Pacific Ocean that spawned them" (read that review here). Opium Dreams by comparison completes a triptych (Cannibal Nights, House of Skin: Prize-Winning Stories, and Dreams) of love, hate, and acceptance, of the struggles for survival, identity, and dignity in calmer tones than the earlier two collections. If Opium Dreams was music it would be a blue saxophone on a lonely beach, in moonlight with the quiet but threatening surf as accompaniment. It would be the detritus left scattered in the sand after a storm--the storm being life and the first two beautiful collections of some of the finest literary short fiction on the 21st century.
This “last panel” in the triptych consists of five stories which could stand on their own as themes to be expanded upon. They are placed in Western Samoa, Hawai’i, New Zealand, back to Hawai’i and Georgia – which sounds like a strange locale for Pacific stories, but take my word for it, it is most definitely a Pacific story. The two earlier volumes addressed the complexities of obsession, drug addiction, racism, erotica, loyalty, family drama, rape, prostitution, terrorism, and even murder. These delve inside the earlier themes to explore adultery, vengeance, cancer, AIDS, homophobia, and especially love in all its tragicomic manifestations. And often, combining those subjects, as an artist-- and make no mistake, Davenport is an artists–would combine the different tints and hues on his or her pallet as they laid down a painting. These stories are haunting, thought provoking, and educational. They will make you cry, they will make you pray, they will make you laugh and realize that you are not alone in the world. There are others that suffer and rejoice at the human journey through time and space… oh, and in enlightenment--or is that light?