Friday, May 30, 2014

Short Story Friday! 5/30

Happy Short Story Month everyone!

In honor of this wonderful month-long celebration, the University of Missouri Press has been posting lists every Friday of our favorite short story collections from here at UMP. We hope you've enjoyed Short Story Month as much as we have, and thanks for being here with us for it!

So kick back, take a little time (really, you only need a little - they are short stories, after all) and indulge in some great reading as we wrap up Short Story Month in style.

The Later Simple Stories
by Langston Hughes, ed. Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper

In Volume 8 of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, the genial Harlem everyman, Jesse B. Semple returns with his more cosmopolitan bar buddy, Ananias Boyd. Social climber Joyce Lane is now Mrs. Jesse B. Semple, and Simple has minimized his flirtatious contacts with other women. Despite these ongoing characters, the later Simple stories are very different from the earlier Simple tales. The later stories evoke the historical and social context within which they were written, a politically dangerous time for the fictional adventures and fantasies of the main characters.

The Later Simple Stories rounds out Hughes's presentation of Jesse B. Semple and the various people of his world. Simple and his foil still make us chuckle, but more important, they make us think. While these episodes often focus on particularities of the times, they also articulate broader truths that remain valuable.

Joe Baker is Dead
by Mary Troy

"He seemed empty, a tube of toothpaste squeezed dry, a flattened and shriveled pod with no peas." Meet Joe Baker.

In this lively and appealing debut work, Troy explores life in all its offbeat and often tragic moments. She presents characters who are searching for solutions to dilemmas only partly of their own making. They are connected to others by weaker bonds than they want or need and, though intelligent, are often guided by attitudes of acceptance and fear. Yet instead of leaving the reader with pathos, Joe Baker Is Dead finds humor in a world with little hope, proving that "all was as it should be. It was possible to go on."

Lost Women, Banished Souls
by Garnett Kilberg Cohen

In Lost Women, Banished Souls, Garnett Kilberg Cohen captures the voices of a variety of women who share one main characteristicthe sense of loss. Although most of these women are like the ones we see every day without giving much thought to the undercurrents of their lives, Cohen shows us how women who appear ordinary on the surface often live extraordinary private lives. With the activities and relationships of her stories' characters, Cohen demonstrates how fragile life is, how everyday decisions can change the direction of one's life, and how much more painful our failures of ourselves can be than our failures to meet others' expectations. 

These stories also explore such social issues as domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, and child-rearing after divorce. Cohen's language ranges from lyrical evocations of the past to the informal, conversational style of folk tradition.

Marked Men
by Michael C. White

From Michael C. White, the author of the critically acclaimed novels A Brother's Blood and The Blind Side of the Heart, comes a new book, Marked Men. It is a gripping collection of twelve wide-ranging stories about those unexpected moments in our lives when the layers of our defenses are peeled away, one by one, and we are left with the harsh inevitability of our fates. Touching on themes of loneliness and isolation, Marked Men deals with characters who have been alienated from society, from family and friends, from their past, and sometimes from their own feelings.

These are powerful and moving stories told in White's distinctive style. Engaging the reader from the first line, White provides a suspenseful and surprise-filled journey as his characters face and resolve their conflicts.

by Nance Van Winckel

Unforeseen and unavoidable shocks not only alter our lives but send tremors into the futures of many others. In this intriguing collection of five individual yet interconnected stories, Nance Van Winckel chronicles the ripple effects that one life or action can have on the lives of many seemingly unrelated people.

A tapestry of interwoven destinies, of loves lost and lives rediscovered, Quake will pull the reader deep into the intensity of Van Winckel's fictive world.

Walking on Ice
by Susan Hubbard

A mother hires a sinister baby-sitter. An Irish innocent embraces the ambiguities of Belfast. A university professor welcomes a houseguest and finds himself a stranger in his own home. Two young women seek romance along the Canadian border. . .

Winner of the Associated Writing Programs' Award in Short Fiction, Walking on Ice depicts a world in which human relationships grow ever more fragile and trust is tentative at best. In these stories men and women confront the unexpected risks of everday life in Boston, Northern Ireland, Connecticut, the Scottish Highlands, and upstate New York. With subtlety and wit, Susan Hubbard explores the tensions of our times.

The Stone Child
by Gary Fincke 

A university maintenance worker and his wife decide to give birth to their anencephalic baby and to accept all the consequences that will follow. During summer vacation, a journalism student trysts with his girlfriend at her suspicious father’s house and soon witnesses the ultimate in paternal vengeance. A schoolboy faces peer violence while his mother struggles with cancer, each relying upon a hopelessly misplaced faith. In The Stone Child, Gary Fincke presents characters at turning points, where the effects of their decisions will ripple throughout the rest of their lives.

Fincke brings great humanity to his characters and displays a sharp and wry sense of humor; his sense of place is strong, his stories richly textured, and his prose a joy to read. Primarily meditating on the viewpoints of male characters, Fincke gives us stories with beginnings that pull us right in and endings that won’t let us leave the world of the story until long after we have finished reading.

Boys Keep Being Born
by Joan Frank

Lately, time seems to have taken on an amusing eternal quality. Outer-space time, quick-and-never; a slow wheeling of which Melinda, moving at whatever speed, is more and more aware she has been accorded the briefest, briefest slice. She finds herself now moonwalking through the strange region of not young, not a mother, not married, unlikely to marry. She will have to work until she dies. She will have good friends who'll keep an eye on her, of course; some of them women much like her. She will float toward and finally past the margins of sexual viability, and never have enough money for a facelift.

In Boys Keep Being Born, Joan Frank's subject matter is stark; her style, wry and lyrical. Her characters ask point-blank questions of the lives in which, willingly or not, they find themselves. The answers they devise—or settle for—may surprise you.

Thank you all for joining us during Short Story Month!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Short Story Friday! 5/23

Happy Short Story Month everyone!

In honor of this wonderful month-long celebration, the University of Missouri Press is proud to introduce Short Story Fridays: every Friday, all May long, we will be posting lists of some of our favorite short story collections from here at UMP.

So kick back, take a little time (really, you only need a little - they are short stories, after all) and indulge in some great reading.

They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust
by Bill Tammeus & Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn

This book tells the stories of Polish Holocaust survivors and their rescuers. The authors traveled extensively in the United States and Poland to interview some of the few remaining participants before their generation is gone. Tammeus and Cukierkorn unfold many stories that have never before been made public: gripping narratives of Jews who survived against all odds and courageous non-Jews who risked their own lives to provide shelter.

Through some twenty stories like these, Tammeus and Cukierkorn show that even in an atmosphere of unimaginable malevolence, individuals can decide to act in civilized ways. Some rescuers had antisemitic feelings but acted because they knew and liked individual Jews. In many cases, the rescuers were simply helping friends or business associates. The accounts include the perspectives of men and women, city and rural residents, clergy and laypersons—even children who witnessed their parents’ efforts.

Our Secret's Out
by Darrell Spencer

From Las Vegas casinos to the boomtowns of Utah and Nevada, these stories tell about lust, about living together, about the perils of everyday life. A convenience store clerk confronts a deranged customer and a far more frightening girlfriend in "Let Me Tell You What Ward DiPino Tells Me at Work." In the fast-paced, powerful "Union Business," union boss Dick Handy teaches his son what women really want, and a son learns a profound lesson on his own: even fathers lie.

In Our Secret's Out, Darrell Spencer will introduce you to a marvelous assortment of quirky characters as they face threats to their safety or sanity and endure life's outrageous surprises.

Spies in the Blue Smoke
by G.W. Hawkes

A ditch-digger and his supervisor transcend their ethnic differences and make their way to the edge of a friendship in. A husband lusts after the surrogate mother who will bear his child. A divorced couple finds a rare moment of communion. Besieged by fear, racism, lust, and even UFOs, the characters in G.W. Hawkes's collection struggle—with varying amounts of success—to interpret such apocalyptic signs: electric waterfalls, green lights in the early morning sky, or the throaty melody of a saxophone on a sleepless night.

In powerfully evocative settings that range from the American Southwest to the islands of the South Pacific, Hawkes displays an unerring eye for detail as he maps the intricate geometry of the human heart.

A Place between Stations
by Stephanie Allen 

A Place between Stations explores the lives of African American characters against the ever-present backdrop of race, but with the myriad complexities of individual minds and souls in the foreground.
Two college students, bound by an intense but uneasy friendship, take an increasingly dangerous road trip through Florida. A widow faces her doubts about her long-dead husband by reliving an odd series of train rides she took along the Hudson River shoreline in the 1950s. An angry, fatherless girl roams a city at night, searching for an escape from the ambiguities of childhood. George Mattie, loner and reluctant guide, leads a misfit nineteenth-century circus caravan on an ill-fated journey through the northern Connecticut woods. In her stories, Stephanie Allen enlarges contemporary notions of what African American lives can be. Varied, to the point, and beautifully composed, this collection will appeal to all audiences.
by Heather Ross Miller
Situated in small-town North Carolina, Miller's tales, cautionary in tone, usually depict blue-collar family life and yet almost resemble old fairy tales. Her stories center around southern families and the dynamics, both loving and hostile, that move families together, separate them, threaten them, and then finally protect them.

All of the stories manifest a genuine love for southern families and the people who are caught, confused, and eventually encouraged and sustained within them. As Thomas Hardy once observed, "Our personal griefs and triumphs are often absurd to other people." But rather than making fun of her characters, Heather Ross Miller is sympathizing as deeply as she can imagine: "These things are only manageable with a bit of humor, even with a caustic flavor. So, as in the funny papers, things can work out, with humor, with plain sense, and, if we are lucky, a bit of magic."
by Gordon Weaver 

In Long Odds, Gordon Weaver's latest collection, each male protagonist struggles for moral and emotional strength to cope with a universe gone awry. Each of the eleven stories centers around a circumstance that is both ordinary and shockingly unpredictable.
Lauded by Publishers Weekly as presenting "characters whose cries are so human, raw and mordant, the reader forgets the fiction and is delivered inside the experience," Weaver skillfully introduces a level of depth and intensity to situations that may appear commonplace at first glance. This inventive collection offers a gallery of men who, outwardly ordinary, are revealed as complex in their humanity, defined as much by their sensibilities as by their actions—or their failures to act.

by Scott Ely
Loners of one sort or another populate Ely's fiction, from a young man discharged from the marines and working as a solitary gamekeeper to a Vietnam veteran turned professor who exchanges favorable grades for sexual favors from his students. Whatever their situations, these characters all feel a deep sense of loss and alienation from the world around them.

Ely's penetrating perceptions about the desire to find security as well as the rhythms of his prose, his vivid detail, and the fullness of his characters make The Angel of the Garden a compelling collection of short fiction.

Brier Country: Stories from Blue Valley
by Elaine Fowler Palencia

Elaine Fowler Palencia returns to Blue Valley, the fictional locale in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky that is the focus of her highly acclaimed Small Caucasian Woman. Blue Valley is a small community—a town where little goes on "except what is left out of history books"—and most of its residents are "brierhoppers," as folks from Appalachia are sometimes known north of the Ohio River. Palencia continues to map her uniquely poignant territory in these sixteen new stories.

Praised by James McConkey as "unique and yet part of an American tradition that includes . . . the fiction of Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor, and reaches back to Mark Twain," Palencia is known for her trademark wit, ear for dialogue, and sense of place—all of which make Brier Country a welcome addition to the folklore of Blue Valley.

Be sure to check back next week for our last Short Story Friday!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Short Story Friday! 5/16

Happy Short Story Month everyone!

In honor of this wonderful month-long celebration, the University of Missouri Press is proud to introduce Short Story Fridays: every Friday, all May long, we will be posting lists of some of our favorite short story collections from here at UMP.

So kick back, take a little time (really, you only need a little - they are short stories, after all) and indulge in some great reading.

The Short Stories
by Langston Hughes, ed. Baxter Miller & Introduction by Arnold Rampersad

For the first time in many years, Langston Hughes's published collections of stories are now available in a single book. Included in this volume are: Ways of White Folks, originally published in 1934; Laughing to Keep from Crying, originally published in 1952; and additional stories from Something in Common and Other Stories, originally published in 1963; as well as previously uncollected stories.

These fictions, carefully crafted in the language Hughes loved, manifest the many themes for which he is best known. We meet and come to know many characters—black and white, young and old, men and women—all as believable as our own families, friends, and acquaintances. Hughes's stories portray people as they actually are: a mixture of good, bad, and much in-between.

The Other Door
by Karen Heuler

Although many of the stories in The Other Door have qualities reminiscent of traditional fables, they are perhaps more fabulous than fabular. They are contemporary folktales, at times venturing into fantasy while retaining the details of everyday experience and psychological authenticity. As in the best folktales and fables, symbols and suggestions come to life and are often linked to the powers of imagination and memory as a means of reconciling the characters to cycles of life and death.

Marvelously crafted, slyly sidestepping the reader's expectations, the characters in Karen Heuler's stories respond to the unexpected events in their lives, accepting and then rising to the challenges, no matter how strange. For them, reality requires invention.

No Visible Means of Support
by Dabney Stuart

In No Visible Means of Support, Dabney Stuart's stories turn within themselves like trapeze artists passing each other in midair. Stuart works without a net, using anagrams, iconographic details, and dreams to imply connections and resolutions, only to shift focus and veer off into new configurations. This collection is complex yet direct, funny yet profound, emotional yet clever. Despite all their narrative sophistication, these stories always concern themselves with basic human predicaments: the sorrow of loss, the mysteries of creation, the persistence and resilience of the spirit.

While each story connects on different levels with the others, none of them presents an easy way out of the difficulties that compose these fictional worlds. A storytelling master, Dabney Stuart threads the implicit sources of help for his characters into their intriguing, earthbound lives.

A Visit to Strangers
by Gladys Swan

In A Visit to Strangers, Gladys Swan's characters inhabit slightly alien, off-center worlds as they struggle to achieve some sort of permanence or stability. Strangeness of situation, environment, and relationship prevents them from taking refuge in worn-out pieties and false values.

There are no easy solutions. Several stories portray disenchanted people who have failed to commit themselves at key moments and end up abandoning their lives to "the stream . . . in which lost things lie." But in others, direct interaction with strangers offers enlightenment to the characters, who are often strangers to themselves.

Perfection in Bad Axe
by Craig Bernthal 

Set mainly in the Midwest, these tales are inhabited by ordinary, decent people who, often to their surprise, find joy and meaning under difficult circumstances. Many of the stories depict isolated moments of perfection in a world that routinely forces its imperfections on us. A teenager wrestles with guilt over an accident he caused in “Perfection in Bad Axe.” In “A Knight Pursued,” a young prosecuting attorney confronts on the same day his first autopsy and his wife’s unexpected desire to have a baby. A devout, hardworking business owner is drawn into a lawsuit that threatens his marriage and leads him to question his most deeply felt principles. “Center of Gravity” finds a middle-aged law professor overcome by his chaotic life and searching for a degree of peace. These are the finely developed characters of Bernthal’s stories—people we recognize, but who never seem overly familiar.

Interesting, substantial, and utterly engrossing, each one could be just like any one of us, an ordinary Jane or Joe, trying to maintain or find order in a life sometimes filled with disorder.

Four Decades: New and Selected Stories
by Gordon Weaver

Gordon Weaver has long been admired as a fiction writer. This collection of new and selected short fiction provides a retrospective of Weaver's illustrious literary career, which has spanned four decades and earned him many awards.

Beginning with his first published story, "When Times Sit In," vivid, authentic characters enliven this collection of a dozen of Weaver's stories, including three previously uncollected works. With the compilation of these stories in one volume, the reader is treated to some of the best writing available today.

Limited Lifetime Warranty
by Nance Van Winckel

When a boat carrying two passengers capsizes in a logjam on Lake Coeur d'Alene, it is Martha, the narrator and central character of the interrelated stories of Limited Lifetime Warranty, who hears the strangers' cries for help from the bow of her family's own boat. In the aftermath of the rescue, she and her father, mother, and older sister retell the story again and again. It is an evening that forever defines the constellation of their family. "So I became the heroine of hearing," Martha says. "I hear tragedy coming, and I point the way to rescue." Her mother became the bearer of light, and her father, who steered around the treacherous logs, became "the one who kept us afloat."

Filled with unforgettable characters and language as true as life, Nance Van Winckel paints a stirring portrait of one remarkable woman.

The Bedquilt and Other Stories
by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, ed. Mark J. Madigan

Dorothy Canfield Fisher, the prolific author of more than forty books, including translations, juveniles, and nonfiction, as well as novels and short-story collections, was one of the most popular and engaging American writers of the first half of the twentieth century. Although her work has been unduly neglected for several decades, it is currently enjoying a revival of critical attention. This colorful collection ranges in subject from New Englanders to the Basques of France to the struggles of African Americans to gain equal rights. Through her stories, many of which received literary awards, Fisher examined the complexities of modern life in the United States and abroad.

Costly Habits
by Peter Makuck

A father on vacation nearly loses his eye on an ocean fishing pier while trying to escape the demands of his family. A systems analyst, embittered by the loss of his job and resentful of a seemingly carefree neighbor whom his estranged wife admires, becomes obsessed with catching squirrels in a box trap. A woman married to a former police detective festers with anger and plots revenge after a confrontation with a restaurant owner. A recent widower tries scuba diving with his difficult teenage children as a way to galvanize the family and regain control of his life. These are some of the people who inhabit the richly textured worlds of Peter Makuck’s Costly Habits. In many of his stories, individuals find themselves in situations where moments of clarity arrive, moments that disclose perspectives of possible change or ways to accept things as they are.

Be sure to keep checking back every Friday during Short Story Month for a new list! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Short Story Friday! 5/9

Happy Short Story Month everyone!

In honor of this wonderful month-long celebration, the University of Missouri Press is proud to introduce Short Story Fridays: every Friday, all May long, we will be posting lists of some of our favorite short story collections from here at UMP.

So kick back, take a little time (really, you only need a little - they are short stories, after all) and indulge in some great reading.

The City of Refuge: The Collected Stories of Rudolph Fisher
ed. John McCluskey, Jr.

One of the premier writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Rudolph Fisher wrote short stories depicting the multifaceted black urban experience that are still acclaimed today for their humor, grace, and objective view of Harlem life. Through his words, wrote the New York Times Book Review, “one feels, smells, and tastes his Harlem; its people come alive and one cares about them.”

A definitive collection of Fisher’s short stories, The City of Refuge offers vibrant tales that deal with the problems faced by newcomers to the city, ancestor figures who struggle to instill a sense of integrity in the young, problems of violence and vengeance, and tensions of caste and class.

The Palace of Wasted Footsteps
by Cary Holladay

Images of dancing and the theme of survival connect the stories in Cary Holladay's latest fiction collection, The Palace of Wasted Footsteps. These images may be explicit, or understated, as in "Mayflies," which suggests the glorious yet frantic dance of brief, intense lives. Yet each story depicts men, women, and children partnered with death, love, or strange, wonderful chance.

The rituals, struggles, and triumphs that the various characters experience are personal yet universal. At the same time, they capture the subtle echoes of the American South and its literary tradition. Like glorious mayflies, Holladay's characters are forever enthralled in the frantic dance of life—their passions are strong, their fates inevitable.

News from the Volcano
by Gladys Swan

News from the Volcano is a collection of five poignant stories about wanderers and outsiders, people searching for an unnamed something that is missing from their lives. Set in the Southwest, a landscape of vivid contrasts and powerful forces, the stories unravel the struggles of these who find themselves in extreme situations, looking and listening desperately for whatever might save them from self-destruction.

All of the characters are crafted with the remarkable realism readers have come to expect from Gladys Swan. The stories are gripping and their resolutions powerful. Taking the reader on tough journeys through rough country, both physically and psychologically, this is a masterful collection by an exceptional writer.

Night-Blooming Cereus
by K.A. Longstreet

A small Jewish boy’s life during the Nazi era grows rich with the sounds and sights of the Arabian Desert when he finds an aged copy of Travels in Arabia Deserta in an Amsterdam cellar. An effete and scholarly collector begins to imitate Van Gogh, the painter he worships. An old woman’s life is shaped by remembrance as she lies in her hospital bed and recounts a voyage through the Greek Islands during World War II. A reporter remembers his part in a college rape as he interviews a Serbian general being held for war crimes in a Dutch prison. A housekeeper embroiders her deepest yearnings into the laundry of the residents of a rooming house.

Each of the stories in Night-Blooming Cereus is set in a different place and time, yet they all deal with the same underlying theme: how the imagination, in its infinite variety, seeks to transcend external events.

Pale Morning Dun
by Richard Dokey

In the thirteen stories of Pale Morning Dun, Richard Dokey endeavors to suggest common truths that uncover the human reality any time, in any place. He explores the ephemeral nature of life through an assemblage of characters as diverse as the settings they inhabit: from a beggar on the streets of San Francisco, “The West Coast Coliseum of Consumption,” to a boy and his brother fly-fishing in a peaceful mountain stream, unaware that they have stumbled upon the threshold of a horrific crime; from a desperate husband pursuing his estranged wife into the bloody arena of a bullfight, to a lakeside cottage where two lovers reveal perhaps too much of themselves. Each uniquely rendered character faces a dilemma that leads him beyond what he knows of himself, forcing him to new insights. The characters’ struggles, though distinctively their own, reveal universal truths about human nature and the transient quality of life. Employing an inspired blend of humor, irony, and imagination in seamless narration, Dokey allows one to enter readily into these idiosyncratic lives, inviting the reader to explore his own capacity to be human, to empathize and respond.

From Hunger
by Gerald Shapiro

To say that this past year had been a bad one would be to insult all the other bad years of Levidow's long life. As he was apt to tell anyone who would listen, every day fresh misery poured on his head. Fruit spoiled as he carried it home from the market. Cars splashed mud and slush on him, even on the sunniest afternoons. . .

"What are you doing to me?" he moaned toward heaven. "You've got the wrong man."

When God tells Levidow to buy a big blue car and get out of town, he dares to think that his suffering might be over. Instead he begins a journey that will put him out on the open highway with a reincarnation of himself as a much younger man, a hideous woman, and an oversupply of Dr. Brown's soda. His is just one of the journeys undertaken by the characters of From Hunger. With wit and irony, Gerald Shapiro leads us from a London park to the streets of Chicago, from the Vietnam War Memorial to a New York art gallery, as his characters search for sustenance in a world full of hunger.

Last Stands
by Gordon Weaver

Last Stands presents people at crucial moments in their lives, the moments in which ultimate challenges are confronted, ultimate questions are asked, and definitive judgments are made. Weaver’s characters may flounder, and fail, but they are redeemed by their courage and their honesty.
A hired assassin ponders his self-worth, a bartender takes his only chance for worldly success, a man buries his mother, another talks with the dead, yet another attends his high school reunion determined on vindication, and a war-weary Vietnam vet finds a place he can call home. These are stories that do not shun the darker side of Weaver’s characters, but seek the illumination of the insights needed to make their lives meaningful, if only to themselves.
by Susan Hubbard 

A union organizer returns to her hometown and her high school sweetheart, only to discover unexpected peril. A middle-aged man walks to meet his wife at work one day and loses her forever. A young writer's stage fright destroys her work and her marriage but offers her a new life. Susan Hubbard creates a world in which the most ordinary things can be magical, and the most ordinary people can be extraordinary.
Strangers appear and disappear in Blue Money. Shoes charm and cure. A soiled shirt conjures conscience, and a clean one promises new identity. Hubbard brilliantly weaves these fantastic elements into the fabric of her fiction.

by Gary Fincke

Troubled relationships between parents and children, most of them adults or at least in their late teens, provide the framework for many stories in this collection. In "Faculty X," a middle-aged son witnesses his mother's fixation with death and her attempt to cope with senility. Both "Callback" and the moving title story, "Emergency Calls," explore the anxieties of parents trying to balance the need to protect their teenage children with the task of making them accountable for their own often self-destructive actions. "Darwin in the City" centers on a man's paranoia and anxiety attacks over everything from hearing his wife gurgle her last breath into her pillow to the impending blindness that he knows will be his fate.
With vivid description and compelling dialogue, Gary Fincke pulls the reader deep into these stories and into the lives of these unforgettable characters.
Be sure to keep checking back every Friday during Short Story Month for a new list! 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Short Story Friday! 5/2

Happy Short Story Month everyone!

In honor of this wonderful month-long celebration, the University of Missouri Press is proud to introduce Short Story Fridays: every Friday, all May long, we will be posting lists of some of our favorite short story collections from here at UMP.

So kick back, take a little time (really, you only need a little - they are short stories, after all) and indulge in some great reading.

The Early Simple Stories
by Langston Hughes, ed. Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper

Jesse B. Semple first sprang to life in Langston Hughes's weekly Chicago Defender column in 1943. Almost immediately, the "Simple stories," as they were routinely called, had a large and ever-increasing audience. Simple soon became Harlem's Everyman—an ordinary black workingman, representative of the masses of black folks in the 1940s.

Simple had migrated to Harlem, like many other blacks, seeking to escape the racism of the South, and he celebrated his new freedoms despite the economic struggles he still confronted. Simple's bar buddy and foil in the stories is the better-educated, more articulate Boyd, who has never lived in the South. Their conversations permit Simple to speak the wisdom of the working class.

Countless exchanges between Simple and his companion offer wit and wisdom that remind contemporary readers why Langston Hughes is so special.

What We Come in For
by Richard Lundquist

Down there, in the heartland, lies Paradise—the fictional town that forms the heart of Richard Lundquist's collection What We Come in For. Like the sturdy quilt or linoleum floor, these stories are individually remarkable yet intimately connected: a fatherless boy whose affection for an unsavory hired hand is at odds with his own sense of rectitude; a woman who leaves her empty house only to find a greater emptiness in the arms of the town minister; a vagabond son who returns for his mother's funeral and begins to salvage his own life and hers by transgressing the laws and customs of Paradise. All of the stories share the same landscapes and landmarks—the M & P CafĂ©, the Greener Pasture, and Turk's Bluff—and all convey the sense of loss, fear, and helplessness that characterizes this heartland.

Lundquist's characters share a history that is portrayed in vignettes between stories. These vignettes are like dimly remembered dreams—of locust plagues, windsickness, flood, and fire—that fade against the pulse of the day. Yet they are the thread that connects each separate patch of the quilt, unifying Lundquist's vision.

The Way to Cobbs Creek
by Dabney Stuart 

In the title story of Dabney Stuart's second collection of short fiction, Mark Random—grown from the childhood and adolescent complexities of Sweet Lucy Wine into his own fatherhood—seeks both to remember and to create his father, Seth. His search moves backward and forward in time, weaving memories of his own children toward the focusing experience with Seth that concludes the story. "[There seemed] in the uniformity of their routines something established long before they were born to their parts in it, a compromise, almost instinctive, with forces too immense and subtly intertwined to be faced head on." Stuart uses a sequence of scenes--fishing trips, gathering for meals, moments of solitary musing--to give context to and complement formally these tentative evocations.

Stories from the Heart: Missouri's African American Heritage
Compiled by Gladys Caines Coggswell 

All along the river, from the front porches of Hannibal to the neighborhoods of St. Louis to the cotton fields of the Bootheel and west to Kansas City, stories are being told.
This collection of family stories and traditional tales brings to print down-home stories about all walks of African American life. Passed down from grandparents and great-grandparents, they have been lovingly gathered by Gladys Caines Coggswell as she visited Missouri communities and participated in storytelling events over the last two decades. These stories bring to life characters with uncommon courage, strength, will, and wit as they offer insight into African American experiences throughout the state’s history.
by Ruth Hamel 

There's one thing I know: Lies hold people together.

So says the narrator of the title story, a furniture refinisher who prides herself on her talent for sidestepping the facts. If only she weren't continually frustrated by her truth-telling older sister. If only the past would keep its distance.

In My Favorite Lies, Ruth Hamel uses a unique blend of humor, irony, and sharp detail to explore the lies people tell each other—not just the fibs, prevarications, and exaggerations, but the deceptions that spring from deliberate silence. These stories also examine the lies we tell ourselves as we struggle to bridge the gap between who we are and who we'd rather be.

Field Observations
by Rob Davidson 

Field Observations, the debut fiction collection from Rob Davidson, contains stories about people who find themselves at difficult turning points in their lives—times when they are faced with hard choices, broken promises, and the fear of self-destruction. Davidson's characters are diverse: a retired math teacher, an auto repair worker, a technical writer, a nurse living overseas. What connects them is the way Davidson renders each character with essential human dignity, regardless of his or her flaws. This collection addresses such contemporary concerns as love relationships, cultural interaction, divorce, aging, and alcoholism in a lively, sometimes offbeat way.

What I Cannot Say to You
by Vanessa Furse Jackson 

You are still there in everything I do, watching over me, looking down on me. Sitting beside you on the drawing-room sofa, with Edie on your other side, I hear your deep clear voice above us, your breath ruffling the hair on the top of my head if you turn towards me, and I watch your long hands turn the pages, your rings sparkling in the yellow light.

Set in England, these are stories that explore the basic nature of friendship: how friendships are formed and deepened, how they can be betrayed and lost. There are friendships between children, married couples, sisters, women, and between grandparents and grandchildren. Throughout, these friendships are tested, coming up against outside forces and internal conflicts that alter or destroy them.

by William Hoffman 

The southern landscape that pervades William Hoffman's latest collection of short stories, Doors, is at once familiar and unsettling. Returning to the people and locales that define Hoffman's fiction—ranging from the rednecks and the white-collar elite of Virginia's tobacco country to the families that work its Tidewater shores—Doors is a brilliant and moving exploration of individuals continually at odds with their circumstances.

Primarily set in Tobaccoton, a fictional town in southside Virginia, the stories in this collection open doors on a multifaceted humanity, men and women often in search of obsessive identities or ideals—cross-class marriages and romances, adultery within class and outside it, and the inevitable consequences of behavior. At times Hoffman's characters face such challenges with nobility and grace; at other times they run from all hope of ever truly understanding the situations laid before them. In short, they abide.

Empty Bed Blues
by George Garrett 

The fifteen stories of George Garrett’s Empty Bed Blues (his eighth book-length collection) are vintage Garrett—no two alike—with each moving, one way and another, in new and daring directions. His stories are deeply concerned with the old verities of love and death and filled with the joys and woes of characters who come to life and command our attention.

In the marriage of fact and fiction, of comedy and pathos, and the music of many voices, the stories of Empty Bed Blues reconfirm the judgment of novelist and story writer Richard Bausch, who said in 1998: “There is no writer on the American scene with a more versatile, more eclectic, or more restless talent than George Garrett."

Be sure to keep checking back every Friday during Short Story Month for a new list!