The pleasures of literary fiction are many but there is so much of it that I find myself looking for a certain kind of writing. Ideally, the tone of the work would be in the tragi-comic range with enough originality of character and conflict to suggest it is grounded in real life, yet also enough lightness and irony to keep it buoyant and moving along. Like the writing process itself, the reader often finds himself diverted from the customary path to a much more uncertain and problematical one. Some of my favorite fiction somehow manages the trick of allowing sadness to inhabit the same space with a kind of low key humor. Occasionally there may be a magical or supernatural element. So likewise in my stories, a guy unwittingly drops a torrid love note in the church collection basket; (more…)
The trouble with Nova probably began much earlier but Christmas was a disaster last year, our first that had really gone awry. The subtle winter charms of Shorewood were still there; the conical holiday lights on the lampposts, the edge of the world sense of deserted beaches, the tapering spires of the chapels, the asymmetrical swirl of slanted and winding avenues. A few parks and a cemetery relieved the compression of dwellings just enough to lend the village a hint of the bucolic. Nova liked the University town aura, even if it was thousands of miles from where she was born. Perhaps my refusal to take a trip she wanted, for a dozen unconvincing reasons, (more…)
Featured Short Story Excerpts
Jarrett wakes with the disorienting sense that he has missed something, that there has been some lapse and he must try to figure out what’s gone wrong. Passengers are wearily lining up in the aisle, jostled by the accustomed roughness of the old rails. The street and buildings out the window are upscale, mildly forbidding and unfamiliar, especially when compared with the ones he had headed past a thousand times. Dusk is coming fast and the whole thing has the feeling of a hoax, as in the movies when the villain slips a tranquilizer into the detective’s drink. The train is slowing down, clambering into some anonymous depot.
This hasn’t happened since he was a young man, when sleep would come upon him like an irresistible temptress, even with the prospect that he would keep going and going into terra incognita. He wonders if he has been snoring or worse, muttering nonsense which Blair insists he sometimes does, yet with the demeanor of someone completely lucid. Somehow he has hurtled four or five stops past his own, straight into the secluded, clubby territory of the north shore. It is as if he has crossed a border, passed without fanfare into another country. He hurriedly grabs his monthly ticket, raincoat and valise, and now sees the sign he has landed in Kingston.
The station is one of those quaint, square buildings with carved wood benches that was probably erected in the thirties. There is a chalkboard listing the cost of snacks in a ﬂorid script, along with a drawing of a cup of coffee, its wispy smoke caught in a spiral. There is a framed map of Midwestern routes, an antique clock with Roman numerals, and a rack of faded books that have been offered to pass the time. Everyone who disembarks the 5:49 trudges up from the culvert where the tracks lie, forty or ﬁfty steps to the level of the street, probably rushing straight for home.
…The night after the delivery truck backed up to the garage with the sleek machine, Laney announced that she was planning to attend an equinox gathering for the weekend. I thought we had agreed to take the kids to the aquarium and some intemperate remarks were exchanged. In the back of my mind, a suspicion (…read more)
Though he didn’t usually keep count, over the past couple years, Blake was sure he had been mistaken for someone else at least six times. Throughout his adult life, such misunderstandings had happened and lately the phenomenon seemed to have accelerated. It occurred in train stations, supermarkets, baseball stadiums, anyplace where hordes of people converged, (…read more)
Brett knows the routine by now as they arrive at Tuttle Park, gathering an assortment of balls, mitts, and a Frisbee out of the trunk, though odds are he has lugged them out here for nothing. He knows Charlie loves him, but that as an only child, his son craves the company of other kids. (…read more)
From our kitchen alcove, I could see Mariel Crane kneeling in her garden and even humming some tune, the name of which seemed just over the borderline of memory and would probably remain there. The Cranes’ three dogs (two Irish setters and a collie) were not with her. Perhaps they would be too much of (…read more)