Tag Archives: story collection

A ‘Dirty Old Man’s’ Defiant Stories: ‘The Bell Tolls for No One’ by Charles Bukowski

Early on in the Charles Bukowski compilation The Bell Tolls For No One, a narrator named Bukowski pulls his car over to the side of the road to stop and marvel at a hideous-looking farm animal. “When one ugly admires another,” he muses, “there is a transgression of sorts, a touching and exchanging of souls, if you will.” It could be said that much of Charles Bukowski’s writing is devoted to this moment when two imperfect forces collide – whether it’s drunken lovers helping each other endure a cold night or a downtrodden man recognizing a kindred spirit in the …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Old Souls and Deep Sadness: ‘In Another Country’ by David Constantine

Readers of British author David Constantine’s In Another Country (Biblioasis; 277 pages) may identify in his stories certain hoary elements of style and material that have been all but abandoned by contemporary U.S. writers seeking to depict modern life in all its fragmented complexity. Absent are the ingratiating narrative voice, the frenetic observation, the satirical punches to the gut dealt to unworthy characters. Constantine’s characters have souls, and do such un-ironic things as write long letters to one another, which they send via mail. The stories are simply plotted, harrowing, and enduringly powerful; the prose is uncompromisingly lyrical yet rarely …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bonded by the Feeling of Failure: “The Emerald Light in the Air” by Donald Antrim

The Emerald Light in the Air (176 pages; Farrar, Straus and Giroux) features seven stories of men late in their lives—men filled with regret who continue to pursue unrequited love, who force themselves to move on by loving newer, different women, men who come to realize they have no desire. Published in The New Yorker over the past fifteen years, each story in Donald Antrim’s new collection introduces the subtle conflicts of relationship and concludes with the patriarchal imperative of suppressed emotion: in “He Knew,” a man settles on his self-destructive young wife, “absently touching and spinning the gold ring on his finger” …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Rewards (and Risks) of the Difficult: Ben Marcus’s ‘Leaving the Sea’

Ben Marcus is a man who prefers not to put things too easily. Since his first book was published almost twenty years ago—The Age of Wire and String, a collection of stories that could have also been prose poems or even guides to some other plane—Marcus has carved a career out of writing complex, formally inventive fictions that seem to confuse just as many readers as they impress. In 2005, after Harper’s published an essay in which Marcus defended difficult and experimental fiction from the likes of Jonathan Franzen and the Atlantic Monthly’s B.R. Myers, Marcus became an unofficial spokesperson—some …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Pushing Against the Constraints of Circumstance: Q&A with Kate Milliken

Kate Milliken is a graduate of the Bennington College Writing Seminars and recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Tin House summer writing workshops. She has recently published her first collection of short fiction, If I’d Known You Were Coming (University of Iowa Press, 134 pages), for which she was awarded the 2013 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Stories from this collection have appeared in a variety of publications, including Fiction, New Orleans Review, and Santa Monica Review. Her story, “A Matter of Time,” was published in ZYZZYVA’s Fall 2013 issue. Told in the intimate details of …Continue reading

Posted in News | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Way to Talk About Loneliness and Loss: Q&A with Santiago Roncagliolo

Born in Peru, and now living in Barcelona, author Santiago Roncagliolo was named as one of Granta’s Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists a few years back. Noted for being the youngest person to win the prestigious Alfaguara Prize (for his novel Red April, which was published in English in 2010), Roncagliolo is also a translator, a children’s book author, a newspaper contributor, and a soap opera writer. His past work has examined the horrors of the Sendero Luminoso in Peru as well as the sex trade in Tokyo, but in his latest book in English, Hi, This Is Conchita and Other …Continue reading

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons in the Fictional Life of a Substitute Teacher: Q&A with Emil DeAndreis

For the last four years, Emil DeAndreis has been substitute teaching while he completes his MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State. Educated in San Francisco’s public schools, DeAndreis never dreamed of being a sub, but the position has granted him an intriguing view of the classroom and the current state of learning. His new collection of short stories, Beyond Folly (Bluecubiclepress.com; 150 pages) is a hilarious, brooding, and sometimes frightening portrait of the life of the substitute in the city today. Beyond Folly follows 27-year-old substitute Horton Haggardy on nine different assignments—from librarian to AP English teacher to …Continue reading

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Hairline Fractures of Relationships: Gregory Spatz’s ‘Half as Happy’

Half as Happy (Engine Books, 186 pages), the new story collection from novelist Gregory Spatz (Inukshuk, Fiddler’s Dream, No One But Us), examines faltering relationships and the unhappy people struggling to hold them together. The collection’s eight stories are remarkably honest, driven by moments both funny and painful that uncover deep rifts in the lives of Spatz’s characters. In “No Kind of Music,” Patrick is drawn to the symphony after his wife leaves him for a younger, one-legged man. Most of the excitement remaining in Patrick’s life is centered on his eclectic neighbors, an elderly couple raising their rebellious daughter’s …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

So Close to Each Other, Yet So Far Apart: Jessica Francis Kane’s ‘This Close’

Jessica Francis Kane’s new story collection, This Close (Graywolf Press, 192 pages), is an interior examination of the closest of relationships. Kane reveals in these thirteen stories how easily conflict, jealousy, and pain can create distance between family, friends and neighbors. In “The Essentials of Acceleration,” Holly is the lonely woman on her block, sharing a house with an elderly father who leaves flowers on the porches of the neighbors. Her father easily befriends the people who live near him while Holly remains confused about her father’s affability. To Holly, being a neighbor does not necessitate friendship. “Let’s have laminated …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Giving Voice to the Stifled, the Neglected, the Heartbroken: Susan Steinberg’s ‘Spectacle’

Susan Steinberg’s Spectacle (152 pages; Graywolf Press) is a story collection of intertwining vignettes, a series of experimental narratives that speak to the vulnerability of being female and the roles women are expected to play in a male-dominant world. Steinberg does not cast a rosy hue over her portrayal of society. She writes her truth—her female narrators’ truth—and makes no attempt to censor it. The narrators’ voices blend together, as do the male characters: lovers, fathers, and brothers move in and out of one another until they become indistinguishable. The opening story, “Superstar,” tells of a woman who breaks into …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Everyday Bizzare: Zsuzsi Gartner’s ‘Better Living Through Plastic Explosives’

Zsuzsi Gartner’s new story collection, Better Living Through Plastic Explosives (Pintail, 224 pages), is a fun book in the best sense: a treasure of tears, laughs, sighs, and smiles. From her opening story, “Summer of the Flesh Eater,” to the title story that closes the collection, Gartner takes us on a creative and bizzare ride in and around British Columbia, awakening us to the marvels of the ordinary. Houses are swallowed up by the earth, recovering terrorists sweat over backyard gardens, a couple speaks the language of Swedish furniture, angels go to high school, and a group of adopted Chinese …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Messiness of Love, Family, and Identity: Q&A with Lysley Tenorio

The people of Lysley Tenorio’s story collection, Monstress (Ecco), are straddlers. Most obviously, they straddle cultures. Filipino immigrants in America pine for their native land or wish, often hopelessly, to assimilate indistinguishably into the culture of their adopted home. Life in the Philippines seems just as conflicted; the West’s exported culture muscles out the endeavors of Filipinos, with the Beatles and Hollywood dominating the collective imagination there just as much as they do here. But Tenorio’s characters also seem to straddle the high and low. He imbues them with profound (but never cheaply sentimental) longings, and with refinement of feeling …Continue reading

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments