free download: Forty Stories
Harper Perennial has risen to the very top of my list of great publishers. They do it right, from publishing writers in trade paper and making it work, (Matt Norman, Domestic Violets – Elizabeth Crane and We Only Know So Much) while bringing some kick ass fiction into a world filled with distractions.
Whispers of this collection’s existence are bouncing around Twitter, and Cal Morgan is the man making it work. Of course I proceed directly to the Elizabeth Crane story, because I think she walks on water. Read her just released novel, (see above) and you will agree. Ms. Crane’s story is a funny little gem about what she likes, and she tells it in spades. Crane is fearless in her love of Gwen Stefani and red lipstick, or how she likes to look at things over and over, enjoying the beauty. It isn’t as if she is defending her stance on “likes”, she’s just clarifying. It’s a quick and resonating.
I’ve been a fan of Matt Norman’s for a while, his writing is cool and funny. In ‘Miss November’, he leaves no stone unturned in this uncomfortable tale of pornography found by your mom. It’s not only how it’s found, but that Dad, well, he doesn’t really give a shit. Should Dads really care if Playboys turn up in their son’s rooms? They should care if they don’t…as the story goes. This little wonder takes place in the tight space of a modern household and Norman drifts carefully between a tightly wound family and one that’s falling apart across the street. Our narrator is glad it’s not him that’s moving out next door, but his own nest seems restless… at best. This story will remind you of that girl at the counter in the unmentionables section of Sears.
Ben Greenman’s story, which is in the leadoff spot of this collection, is just straight up badassery. I’ve been following Mr. Greenman on Twitter, I don’t know why, he’s just one of those writerly types that I like to hear chirp. ‘Ambivalence’ is a story I wish I’d written. In about five or so pages we hear the story of Panos, who is just about to be married as he picks up the phone and allows a “girl” to come over. It’s not the one he’s about to marry, but of a breath of fresh air. Greenman is a subtle talent, especially when he shows the volley between a stay at home guy and this cool breeze of a girl. The way she seduces him is glorious. He allows this to happen, as he is almost instinctively attracted to this kind of thing. I suppose it’s those moments right before you make that “rest of your life” decision that you feel the most urgent pull to do the opposite, whatever it might be. This relationship lasts only a few pages but probably fueled everything that came “after” for Panos.
Read this collection, it’s free and I’m done spoiling it for you.