As I have found out for myself, there are no limits to what a mixilating group of short stories can become. A veritable championer of Flash Fiction, Nancy Stohlman embarks upon a strange and irreverent series to situate the reader with death-row volunteers, stewardesses, Avon-lady stalkers, magicians and homunculi just for starters. There are some flashes to be sure but these stories aren’t mere formal reductions or glib plot encapsulations come about by editorial stripping. This is a strange and enticing grouping of vignettes where skeletal structure is ruled by omission or by the vague projections of causality. We traverse momentary realms from the surreal to the absurd to the mythopoetic, often propped up by illogical scaffolding or some labyrinthine state of limbo. There are hints of Kafka, Hoffman, Borges – even more contemporary types like Jonathan Carroll or Angela Carter perhaps. But among these twisted miniatures runs two seams that hint at some totalizing purpose; the first being a set of blasphemous biblical paraphrases and the second offering the on-going presence of the Red Fox. This is an odd and intriguing juxtaposition but the returning fox, although via unconventional treatments, seems to offer the same totemic reverence often found in Native American and Scandinavian myths. So often cast as the trickster, and here infiltrating a world of literary tricks, the presence, although tragic, is a grounding one.
(These books may or may not have been published prior to 2014–only read by me in 2014.)
In no particular order:
1. Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer
I love that this book is set in Denver. It’s a gritty, glorious, romanticized bloodfest, a modern day crime and outlaw story alternating between the dive bars and meth houses of the city to the highways that escape out of town but never from the past.
2. Bound by Blue by Meg Tuite
From my Amazon review: These thirteen stories are funny but not funny… Tuite takes us into living rooms that are as disturbing as they are familiar, and repaints them with an artist’s sensitivity and an oddly appropriate sense of wonder. Her characters are raw, flawed, broken, charming, tragic, adorable, hateful, hopeful, and authentically human.
3. Pizzas and Mermaid by Jonathan Montgomery
From my Amazon review: From the epic battle with National Pizza Chain and the “Estimated Delivery Time” saga to stand-alones such as “Placenta” , “Things Left in the Back of My Cab”, late night lottery ticket encounters and strippers with unicorn horns, Jonathan Montgomery combines sharp insight and deadpan humor with magical adventures for grown ups!
4. Maybe This is How Tides Work by Brian Dickson
Brian Dickson has a soft, vulnerable lens that he uses to filter his world, and his newest book of poetry is a bittersweet and beautiful view of people, the heart, and all things New Mexico.
5. She Bears a King by Lynn Brewer
From my Amazon review: “I just finished reading Lynn Brewer’s first novel, “She Bears A King”–a hilarious pop culture romp into the life of a modern woman who is impregnated by Jesus. Loved it!”
6. Patriarch Run by Benjamin Dancer
From my Amazon review: I’ve always been a fan of Benjamin Dancer’s prose—but his new book, called a “literary thriller” combines both the prose and depth of character that I’ve come to expect from Dancer with honest to god high-energy page-turning tension of a classic thriller!
7. Italy: Beer Country by Bryan Jansing and Paul Vismata
Bryan Jansing and Paul Vismata researched this book for years, from their decade + experience working with craft beers to their multiple trips to Italy. If you thought Italy was just about vineyards–you are wrong. Perfect for beer connoisseurs and Italy fans alike.
8. Wild Life by Kathy Fish
Sophisticated, smart, and powerfully understated, they don’t call her the Queen of flash fiction for nothing! I’m looking forward to reading her newest collection, Together We Can Bury It in 2015!
9. They Only Eat Their Husbands by Cara Lopez Lee
Re-released by Conundrum Press this year, the author of the blog Girls Trek Too takes us on her adventures of the world and the heart in equal measures. Both armchair traveling and introspection with Cara’s signature clever observations and humor.
10. Diddle by Daniel Staniforth
With a poet’s sensibility, Daniel Staniforth weaves lush sentences as intricate as lace doilies, telling the immigrant story with an oddly unexpected and delightful fairy tale flair.
And just one more for the road…
11. Either Way I’m Celebrating by Sommer Browning
This is my kind of poetry! Irreverent, hilarious and highly intelligent, Sommer breaks poetry taboos, draws naughty comics and leaves you alternating between humorous shock and poignant recognition.