Story Sundays: “The Man from the Ad” by Idra Novey

Idra Novey

“Twice in the night she woke up and reread the letter again and then a third time in the morning before sending it on her way to the Saavedras where she worked as a maid, and where she received the wailing, youngest son Vicente before she’d even put down her bag. She hadn’t taken to this last boy as she had to the older Saavedra children, but today she felt so full of promise she kept Vicente in her arms all morning. She had just sent a letter. To a man who might want to meet her. The greatness of the possibility felt like an apple inside her, round and shiny every time she thought of it.”

Nelda Soto is lonely. She does things to assuage her loneliness that are understandable to the similarly lonely, and perhaps pathetic to the mercilessly popular. When, at her more gregarious, practically-minded sister Maria’s urging, she responds to an ad in the personals section of the Peruvian Sunday paper, she invites the beginnings of an unusual correspondence. Javier, the man whose personal ad she answers turns out, of course, to be rather disparate from her stolid yet earnest romantic ideals, but sooner than later, Nelda becomes hard-pressed to imagine her life without him. When an essential, previously guarded truth about Javier’s exact location comes to light, it is the thought of the song-fragments (which are really poem-fragments) and curious thoughts he’s shared that compel Nelda to seek him out, despite the potential embarrassment to herself. This, and what Nelda discovers upon encountering Javier face to face, form the essence of Idra Novey’s tender, deceptively simple short story of unexpected kinship and the universally shared quest for human comfort, “The Man from the Ad”.

The story is more than a seeming retrospective take on a romantic’s search for meaning; what makes it fodder for future rumination is how detail-dotted it reads, even when those details have been artfully concealed by Novey’s hand. For instance, near the beginning of the narration, we learn this:

“It was 1979, six years into the Pinochet dictatorship, and Maria assured Nelda that the newspapers reported nothing but good news now. Nothing was going wrong in the country anymore. It was an ideal time to find someone through the paper.”

This is clever, unflaggingly clever of the author—to document an entire substory of horror and wartime woe beneath a pleasant, postal façade. The idea of no bad news being reported in the thick, unremitting onslaught of one of history’s most brutal dictatorships is stymying. With a hair’s breath’ difference of perspective, we realize that Novey could be telling us a very disparate story. It might be to her eternal credit that she does not. There is something garishly enticing about reading of a fairly innocuous, if oddball, courtship, whose players have not gone unsoiled by the tragedies of the time, and yet, none of the horrors one might expect never quite reveal their faces. Some of the best writing is enforced entirely in the name of baiting us, hooking us on expectations and delivering the opposite of what we think we’re going to be told, no? There are subtle hints and suggestions of that in this story, giving it volume and history once we’re aware enough to distinguish them where they lie.

Pen and paper correspondents will doubtless appreciate the uneven, awkwardly meeting layers of experience in Nelda’s letters to Javier, and his responses to her. Her declarations are just that: baldly, self-consciously declarative, in which she makes no secret of her intent, in which her solitary, longing heart is evident between every forthright line. Javier’s replies are perfumed with the mysterious, including random queries regarding Nelda’s epicurean tastes, and snippets of the poems of César Vallejo,  who Nelda mistakes for a possibly-leftist contemporary singer… and yet, at their core, both sets of letters are about the writer seeking to draw out the pleasure of the other. So, Nelda wishing Javier a Happy Easter, in advance, because she remembers his initial request for a “thoughtful correspondence”, and Javier sending Nelda these lines from C. Vallejo:

“It’s the fourteenth of July.
Five o’clock in the afternoon. It rains
Over the third corner of a dry page
And it rains more from below than above.”

are born from the same impulse: to be beloved, to show gratitude for the presence of another in one’s life who finds one worthy of every care.

Exquisitely composed, “The Man from the Ad” contains enough reflections on desire tempered by distance, on what constitutes our carnal responses, on companionship and the unlikely places in which it dwells, to carry you through a week of reflections, and then some. Perhaps it will inspire you to toy with phrasing for your very own personal ad… because, wartime or not, we’re always reaching out for a little extra affection, aren’t we?

You can read “The Man from the Ad” by Idra Novey here. (Guernica)

This Sunday, Ellen, the creator of the Story Sundays feature, shares her thoughts on “White Boy” by Murray Dunlap. You can read her post at her blog, Fat Books and Thin Women, here. This week, we’re also joined by the lovely Jennifer of Books, Personally, who shares her thoughts on “Weimaraner” by Kate Lorenz, here.

Story Sundays was created by Fat Books and Thin Women as a way to share appreciation for this undervalued fiction form. All stories discussed are available to read free, online. Here’s Fat Books and Thin Women’s Story Sunday archive, and here’s mine. Want to start up Story Sundays on your blog? Yay! Email story.sundaysATgmail.com for details.


Story Sundays: “Winter Break” by Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel

This is the short story you wish you’d written if you were a writer who allowed herself a broader swathe of cruelty over her reader. That’s the prevailing thought I’ve cultivated from multiple readings of “Winter Break”, a quick cigarette’s length of a read to which I know I shall return, to have my heart bruised, bewildered and grudgingly made envious, all over again.

A British couple, growing semi-stolidly, predictably into their middle age, endures an uncomfortable journey to their vacation resort, chauffeured by a distinctly disagreeable driver. As their taxi rattles unceremoniously over pockmarked roads, subject to sudden, miniature avalanches of earth clods from the mountain slopes that frame their travel, the wife muses about the alternate plans she’s quietly, without apparent bitterness, curated in her secret heart, despite her repeated renunciations of them, prompted by her husband, Phil. It is through her eyes that this seemingly lukewarm hotel odyssey unfolds, through her sole perspective that the journey to the hotel resort begins and ends.

This linear, single-voiced narration seems to work best in most short fiction; “Winter Break” is no exception. The unnamed wife (leaving her nameless adds a layer of cleanliness, somehow, giving us the right to apportion her any name we choose, or no name at all; there is something surgically precise about an unnamed protagonist, is there not?) is satisfyingly complex. Her in-transit thoughts are as scattered, easily jolted as the ride to the Royal Athena Sun itself. In the time it takes for them to manoeuvre their way from the disconcertingly humid airport lounge, to the terracotta-tiled hotel entrance, we are able to glean the impression of the full life of her marriage to Phil, to acknowledge it as its own chafing, unevenly impressioned identity.

Indeed, the marriage could be said to be a character within its own right. The weight of it seems to occupy as much room in the backseat of the taxi as either of the marriage partners. There is a distressing heft to all the concessions our narrator has made to Phil during the tenure of their union, the most apparent being the latter’s overt reluctance to procreate. The way in which Mantel articulates Phil’s passive-aggressive manipulation of his wife’s own will in the matter is exquisitely executed:

“Once, a year or two into their marriage, he had confessed to her that he found the presence of small children unbearably agitating …

He nodded miserably. “A lifetime of that,” he said. “It would get to you. It would feel like a lifetime.”

Anyway, it was becoming academic now. She had reached that stage in her fertile life when genetic strings got knotted and chromosomes went whizzing around and reattaching themselves. “Trisomies,” he said. “Syndromes. Metabolic deficiencies. I wouldn’t put you through that.”

Anyone who’s been in a relationship in which their partner has wielded subtle or overt pressure over their choices can attest to the curious emotional miasma that emerges at the hands of this studied, almost sympathetic negation of their own autonomy. It rankles just as much as it bemuses, making one wonder at intervals (as our narrator no doubt wonders) just how much one wanted what one claimed to, in the first place.

Most short fiction pieces seem to save their visceral pull for the very end; few do it as blindingly well as this one. Without giving too much away, this is what I mean by enviously enforced writerly cruelty. Mantel drives us through a landscape that we discern to be well-plotted but not particularly hair-raising, then sends us careening off an unforeseen cliff without so much as a backward glance—and this is the very best way in which the story could have ended, arguably. If anyone can conjure up a superior ending, once they’ve read the original, I would be thrilled to hear about it. It transforms what would have been a very fine story into something fictively exceptional, and if the price of that is a perpetually unanswered cache of questions, so much the better, no?

Too many short stories are caulked with excessive kindness; they could stand to be improved by some authorial amorality. “Winter Break” is a concise case study in witnessing, simultaneously, far too little, and far too much, for one’s own good. If I taught a course in short fiction writing, it’s the kind of story I’d distribute to my students, saying, “Discuss this. Tell me about human kindness, or the distinct lack thereof, about the tricks we make our minds play, and the times we wish we could trick ourselves out of seeing what we’ve seen.”

You can read “Winter Break” by Hilary Mantel here. (The Guardian)

This Sunday, Ellen, the creator of the Story Sundays feature, shares her thoughts on “This Is All the Orientation You Are Gonna Get” by John Jodzio. You can read her post at her blog, Fat Books and Thin Women, here.

Story Sundays was created by Fat Books and Thin Women as a way to share appreciation for this undervalued fiction form. All stories discussed are available to read free, online. Here’s Fat Books and Thin Women’s Story Sunday archive, and here’s mine. Want to start up Story Sundays on your blog? Yay! Email story.sundaysATgmail.com for details.

Story Sundays: “Rain” by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith

It’s interesting when the writer of a piece of fiction begins his story by calmly declaring that one of his techniques bears no dint of conceit, when, in fact, it is typically thought of as conceited. McCall Smith starts “Rain” by sharing his thoughts on authorial intrusion, that dismantling of the layered screen separating world-constructor and world-absorber; he admonishes it while in the process of implementing it, so that we wonder, “What is the good of this? Why won’t you simply launch into the story proper?”

The story proper is a simple one, without fantastic artifice, or suspenseful leaps of faith. It concerns the intertwined lives of two men, Riv and Ian, who meet, fall in love and decide to build their lives together—two men who are initially surprised but humbly, happily gratified to find in the other’s contrasting Self a near-perfect mirror of reflecting desires. Their dreams turn to having children; after deliberation they decide to employ the services of a flighty surrogate who seems, nonetheless, suitable for the procedure. Riv and Ian decide on a mixed-batch donation, so neither will be entirely certain which of them turns out to be the father of their future child. As their wisely supportive doctor friend, who arranges the specifics of the procedure, remarks:

“The danger, I would imagine, would be resentment. If one of you knew that you were the real father, then you could start assuming that your word carried more weight than the one who wasn’t. Humanity is messy. People behave in ways they’d never dream they’d behave in. Let me assure you of that.”

So what happens, then, when both Ian and Riv begin to cultivate their separate, private doubts, suspicions and secret musings over their son David’s parentage—specifically, which one of them is the father? They both, independent of the knowledge of the other, turn to their doctor friend for a paternity test, but neither of them receives the results they expect, altering the fabric of what they believe in an unexpected, nigh-impossible to predict manner.

I have always been a fan of McCall Smith’s elegantly understated, economical writing style, having enjoyed his Isabel Dalhousie novels supremely over the years. They are akin to a certain brand of literary indulgence that bears the sweet taste of a known formula, while bearing none of the bitter dregs of a truly frown-worthy fictive style. “Rain”, titled partially in homage to W. Somerset Maugham‘s short story of the same name, is crafted on the same standards of fine tale-telling to which one grows accustomed after a steady diet of McCall Smith. His authorial perspicacity and emotional involvement in the development of his characters, and the situations in which they find themselves, is both gentle and unsentimental. The result is that we enjoy the lives of these men; we appreciate what they endure even when they are sad, out of sorts with themselves, each other, and the world. We recognize in their interludes of woe and joy familiar skins of our old, new and unborn experiences, ones we can pull over our own bones like overcoats, marvelling at how well they fit, at how seemingly easily they speak to what we know, and the places we’ve been, the places we have yet to go.

Why the title “Rain”, though, you might still be wondering? A story titled in partial homage still needs to have its name bear some relevance to the concerns of the narrative itself, no? Rightly so… and rain is important in this sweetly sad reminiscence of a tale. It frames, in torrents both obscuring and revealing, the principal exchanges at the heart of the piece. It is to a background of rain that worst fears are confirmed, and under the same deluge that glimmers of redemptive hope, even in the face of atrocious deception, are glimpsed. McCall Smith stitches in these fine lines of symbolic significance without having to bash his reader over the head with them, repeatedly; this adds to the story’s understated, undeniable appeal.

Divided into paragraph-length chapters that span years, possibly a decade, possibly  more, the story holds the weighted significance of a shared segment of a lifetime’s worth of memory, without the pages and pages devoted to slow, steady exposition one might normally associate with this level of development. We learn as much about Ian and Riv by what McCall Smith does not say about them, as by what he makes plain in his prose. Some may find the chapter assignation cloying, but I can only conclude that it is enforced with the same display of thoughtfulness that the author evinces in other chief aspects of his narration.

You might be able to read “Rain” twice in the length of time it takes you to walk from your house to the post office on the corner, but if you read it today, I daresay you will enjoy a Sunday speckled with the finest calibre of thoughtful thoughts… and what more could you ask for, from a short story, than to be reminded of all the rain that’s framed the best and worst moments of your life up to this point?

You can read “Rain” by Alexander McCall Smith here. (New Statesman)

This Sunday, Ellen, the creator of the Story Sundays feature, shares her thoughts on ‘Aviator on the Prowl’ by Kalpana Narayanan. You can read her post at her blog, Fat Books and Thin Women, here.

Story Sundays was created by Fat Books and Thin Women as a way to share appreciation for this undervalued fiction form. All stories discussed are available to read free, online. Here’s Fat Books and Thin Women’s Story Sunday archive, and here’s mine. Want to start up Story Sundays on your blog? Yay! Email story.sundaysATgmail.com for details.


Story Sundays Feature Launch: The Night Walk Men by Jason McIntyre

I think that the short fiction form is severely underrated in contemporary reading tastes. It’s a telling (and troubling) sign that short story collections sell with less success than novels do, to the extent that many writers aspiring towards publication are discouraged from dedicating their time to the former, since the latter holds more promise of lucrative gain.

Short stories are brilliant at capturing the crystallization of a moment, an encounter, a single, sustained emotion, feeling or thought that lingers long after the reading. The best can render us speechless and lightning-struck in a handful of pages. They are ideal conversation fountains, and enrich us with minimal time dedication on our part. Perhaps most significantly, they are valuable gateways into the world of reading, for those who are bookshy.

Ellen Rhudy, of the marvellous book blog, Fat Books and Thin Women, runs a weekly feature dedicated to the enjoyment and analysis of one short story at a time. Its tagline is “Always short stories, always ones available online for free”, and I’ve admired the accessibility of this for quite some time. I’m pleased to announce that, with Ellen’s blessing, I’ll be participating in the Story Sundays feature, every week at Novel Niche, adding to the enthusiasm reserved especially for coffee, cigarette or evening-length reads. Ellen’s story this Sunday is “Fire” by Chelsea Laine Wells.

I’m happy to launch the feature with the work of another colleague of mine, the writer Jason McIntyre. Here are my musings on his novelette, The Night Walk Men, which, in the spirit of the free-to-access segment of Story Sundays, he has graciously made free to download. You can access it in the format of your choosing at Smashwords, here.

“Death has no prejudices. None that I’m aware of. Well, unless of course you count a discordant bias for the elderly. Or that heaving soft spot for the unhealthy and for the careless.”

Jason McIntyre continues to write fiction I like, in a genre I’ve always avoided. Reading his work has proven to be a reliable barometer by which to mark my preconceptions, as well as a reminder of the successes that can accompany fictive genre-melding.

The Night Walk Men, a novelette offering from the author of Thalo Blue, is no exception. It is a curious tale of justice, mediated by non-human hands, narrated to us by Sperro, a Night Walk Man, a character who waxes cryptic and revelatory with each of his admissions. He tells an eager, unidentified listener (for all you know, it might be you) of his brotherhood line, of the life-altering, reality-shaping work they carry out, and of an important young girl, affectionately dubbed ‘Gabriella the great’, over whom two prominent Night Walkers fundamentally disagree.

There is no other personage in The Night Walk Men from whom I would have preferred principal narration. Sperro’s encouragingly irreverent demeanour makes the work that much more readable. He spends much of his time on the page protesting that we don’t really want to hear the story he has to convey, though we protest that we do. His  list of metaphors for pain, which introduce us to the novelette proper, are achingly valid, all of them aptly delivered without trite flourishes:

“This is going to be coming down from on high. Or finding your spouse in bed with another. Or murder-suicide. Or heavy metal from the neighbour at three in the morning. This is going to be the doctor telling you it’s inoperable. Or a chemical burn on flesh. Or pepper spray and a wrongful conviction. This is going to be a fire eating your life’s work. This is going to be Your First Time. Or Your Last Time.”

There is something in the way that Sperro speaks to the reader which recalls all the meaningful conversations in your life, the ones that span hours, undivided, or ford the rivers of rushing years with their implacable necessity. If you haven’t had conversations like that, there is an arena of your life that’s not yet been fiercely assaulted with investigation, and more’s the pity. I imagine it would be a worthwhile experience to talk to all of the Night Walk Men whom we meet: flinty Sperro, sad, weary Obsidion, unyielding and resolute Montserrat. These three shadowy, solemn figures each merit our attention, elicit our sympathy, and prompt discussion with fellow readers.

Perhaps less engaging is the character of Braille the Rail, a blind, affable saxophonist whose own life imbricates meaningfully with Gabriella’s, at a crucial juncture. I don’t think he’s poorly done, necessarily; I’m quite certain he’d induce me to hunker down on the floor of the train station and belt out a rousing duet with him—after all, he’s written that way. Still, there is something in him that resembles residual stock quality. He almost reads as a composite of every emotionally sensitive, mentally attuned blind man with a penchant for music and wise ruminations we’ve encountered in works of fiction. The constraints of the novelette form may not afford him the same room in which to take root. Nor do we learn much of Gabriela that emotionally binds us to the promise of her slumbering greatness. Perhaps we are meant to empathize far more with the guardians who struggle, labouring beneath the yoke of their extraterrestrial vocations… and if this is McIntyre’s purpose, it is handsomely achieved.

There is something maddening about reading a fictive work that lingers perpetually on the precipice of a big reveal that is never revealed, isn’t there? Many of the questions this novelette raises do not answer themselves. Unless McIntyre is brewing a sequel, the only responses to your burning queries about Gabriella’s fate, or the continued role of the nocturnal sojourners, might well be the ones your own imaginative speculation furnishes. In some instances, this unresolved tension is indicative of nothing so much as authorial laziness or indecision, in the mode of “I didn’t know where to end it, so I just… ended it.” Thankfully, McIntyre’s writing does not give rise to this breed of suspicion. Indeed, the lack of comforting closure by the end of Sperro’s grim discourse could be interpreted as a quiet affirmation of the fact that tidy, linear endings rarely exist—a reality within which the Night Walk Men must function, or else perish.

An hour’s read as cerebrally provocative as it is solidly presented, The Night Walk Men distinguishes itself from normative crime-suspense-thriller dross with its decidedly literary cast. Shot through with shades of the metaphysical, the bleakly humorous and the wildly speculative, if it doesn’t at least make you wonder… then I’m coming straight to your door for the answers.

Jason was gracious enough to answer some questions I had on The Night Walk Men; here’s a transcript of our interview.

The writer, giving his best Sperro impersonation?

‘The Night Walk Men offers us your perspective of eternal guardians, watching over the realms of the living, acting on orders from a source on High. This isn’t necessarily a unique concern (but, of course, these days, what is, right?) What do you think sets your treatment of this archetype in literature apart from the rest?

The candy coating. Don’t laugh; I’m actually being serious when I say that. Let me explain. Most books and films that personify death do so in one of two ways: either showing it as a harbinger of black, horrific nightmares plus all the bad stuff we associate with leaving this world, or as benevolent angels doing everything they can to make our exit peaceful and meaningful in a dramatic way.

The Night Walk Men is about the blue collar working class who are charged with dealing Death. And Life. These people are doing their job. They get orders from a boss in a figurative corner office, whose motives they don’t always understand. These are assembly-line figures who do everything short of punch a clock. Our narrator is bitter, embroiled in a centuries-long tenure he feels is important but that no one fully appreciates, that no one really understands. He and his kin are the writhing, unwashed masses of his occupation. And he is desperate to leave some kind of understanding behind to those he feels might be, ironically, incapable of understanding.

Plus, he’s a sarcastic, heavy-handed fellow. I can’t help but love his brutal honesty, can’t help but love him—warts and all, as the saying goes.

As you know, I enjoyed reading Thalo Blue, one of your full length novels, which I reviewed on Novel Niche in June. If you had to single out one thematic concern that unites Blue with The Night Walk Men, what would it be?

Writing decent fiction is similar to good songwriting. There’s power in the silences, those moments between chords, those moments between melodic movements. If the writing is good, the reader will skim across character, detail, plot and everything else that’s left deliberately out then come up with a result somewhat unique to them, possibly akin to their own sheer imagination, or to drag out my analogy, akin to a melody heard inside one’s own head.

I believe this is why you can see drastic, bi-polar reviews for the same book; some hate it and some love it. If everyone had the same look at the same book, then it would likely be called “Sweet Vampiric Stereotypes Volume Thirty-Nine”.

As for thematic parallels, I must say that all my work, Night Walk Men and Thalo Blue included, deal with the idea that we are not above anything. There is something at work on our lives and in our world that is trying to harmonize with us. Is it a spiritual undertone? You might interpret it that way. Is it a supernatural or paranormal presence? That’s also a valid interpretation.

Will I be so overt as to say what I believe? Perhaps in time. For now, though, I’ll probably just explore these ideas through more stories and see if I can use this exercise as a way to establish what I do believe. And what does make sense to me.

The names you’ve chosen for this novella are spot on! I’d like to know a bit more about what goes into your naming process; has any name you’ve given a character been arbitrary?

They’re all completely arbitrary. What? You thought there was some magic there? Some divination? Nope. None.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I do give great thought to character names. Have any been without some level of forethought? Sadly no. And when writing—since I write in an entirely linear fashion, despite the sometimes non-linear stories—I will often find myself at a dead stop for fear of introducing a new character called by the wrong thing. I can’t go forward until the name is right.

The process starts in the cranium. I draw ridiculous associations with names that I’ve heard, people I have known, or those from other stories and films. Then I do research and try to combine given names and surnames with some sort of semi-obvious tone to them. I don’t want them to be outright and obvious but perhaps they can be let to stew in a reader’s mind as they read the book. Then, Eureka!, I know why he named her that!

So you’re sitting opposite a stranger on a park bench, and she’s reading “Sweet Vampiric Stereotypes Volume Fang-fourty”. Tell her something about your work, The Night Walk Men in particular, which will make her drop the smut and run to Amazon.com/Smashwords/the other fine e-stores your writing is sold.

Well, I imagine, knowing my own character, I would probably converse with her about anything other than my writing. I might enquire as to what she finds so titillating about the smut, as you call it. But all the while, I’d probably never ‘fess up that I have written anything. In truth, if she’s reading that, she’ll likely never care to give anything of mine a chance.

However, to play along, I’d probably say that this young author is writing something like contemporary baroque lit-fiction, often but not always, with tinges of the paranormal. His characters explore their world with innocence but the world in these books is anything but.

I like to say that my role as a writer is to break your heart, utterly and completely shatter it to pieces. Then, bit by bit, my next task is to put it back together again.

I’ve quoted a set of lines I especially like, to preface my thoughts on your novelette. If you were going to excerpt some of your favourite lines, what would they be, and why do you love them so?

Tough question. I do like the ones you’ve chosen as well.

My feeling is that the more melodic bits can only exist if there are, as I said before, empty spaces around them. If there is too much of this melody, then the whole thing falls under the weight of its noise.

I like many. Some include:

“It’s a strange thing: I suppose a body gets used to laying under a sheet at night and when it doesn’t feel the familiar weight of fabric pressing down over it, it can suddenly feel exceedingly unnatural.”

from Shed, 2010

It’s not written particularly well, but the sentiment is a strong one. Not only does it work well in the story, but it says so much about the human condition.

Another from The Night Walk Men might be this entire paragraph:

“I should tell you that I’ve seen Death. I’ve seen Death nearly every day. Just today, in fact, I witnessed Death walking down McMurchy Street. In what city, I cannot recall. And for what purpose, I cannot tell you. But at what time, that I do remember. It was just before high noon, and He was there, moving south, determined. If you had eyes and were at my side, you’d have seen Him too. He might have been searching for a sick child, might have been looking for a young fellow who didn’t look both ways before crossing.”

Why do I like it? It does a solid job of personifying Death. It is mythical in its quality and I believe every reader will understand the notion of Death seeking out sick children or some young one who didn’t heed the words of his parents while trying to fetch a stray ball.

I’m deeply grateful to Ellen for her consenting to my adoption of the Story Sunday meme; I fully intend on doing it justice and continuing to contribute in the fine style that Ellen’s established (with my own, Novel Niche-esque quirky flair, of course)! I’m also appreciative of Jason taking the time out to respond so thoughtfully and thoroughly to the questions I posed. I look forward to seeing his writing career evolve. His finely articulated, synergistic style is a worthy platform from which many lofty fictive trees can be grown; so here’s to reading in that particular forest… and here’s to countless Sundays of short fiction splendour!

Story Sundays was created by Fat Books and Thin Women as a way to share appreciation for this undervalued fiction form. All stories discussed are available to read free, online. Here’s Fat Books and Thin Women’s Story Sunday archive, and here’s mine. Want to start up Story Sundays on your blog? Yay! Email story.sundaysATgmail.com for details.