It’s back. After an eight-year hiatus, American Short Fiction returns with a new publisher, a new design, an essay and a photo narrative, and an admission “to a certain amount of uncertainty.” The tight, 122-page journal includes five pieces of fiction that should assure readers that they “are concerned as always, and above all else, with fiction.” The writing is quality, the story-telling unconventional, the authorship distinctive though not necessarily American. Susan Steinberg’s narrator lurks in the parking lot, observing and obsessing over the “Court” of a basketball game, revisiting her past, reimagining the present. Steinberg’s style, witty and self-conscious, sparse but biting structure, elevates the undercurrent of sex and longing, brilliant and self-conscious, sparse prose-poem like narrative:
I went to my mother, I’m going to college.
My mother went, You’re going nowhere.
My father went, I’m going now.
I mean to say my father went.
John Oliver Hodges, whose narrative essay Daytona evokes the eerie carnival of beach natives, adds a thoroughly creepy piece of fiction about love. Gum, a homeless seventeen-year-old boy prostitute, pines for Caramel, who keeps the world together one trick at a time. Gum’s innocent account represents the truth of quality fiction. Joy Williams decries the loss of language in the endangered literature of nature, citing the postmodernists to the naturalists in the super-smart essay, “Literature UnNatured.” Then there’s John McManus’s Reverend Obediah Mantooth, a non-indian Indian who courts God’s eternal darkness while caring for his teenage son and chasing off tourists mistaking his yard collection for a metaphor, his landlocked lighthouse for a phallic symbol. “And this voice of God wasn’t a dysfunction in Obie’s bicameral lobes, nor was it schizophrenia, any more than his lighthouse had a foreskin that collected smegma.” [www.americanshortfiction.org] –RT Duffer