I’ve read two amazing short story collections recently, both by authors who are still alive. It’s wonderful when that happens.
One of them is Aliens In the Prime Of Their Lives, by Brad Watson. My Kindle was a-humming with page clicks when I downloaded this baby. I read each story at least three times; some more four and five times. Like “Visitation,” which you can read at the New Yorker. The opening paragraph:
Loomis had never believed that line about the quality of despair being that it was unaware of being despair. He’d been painfully aware of his own despair for most of his life. Most of his troubles had come from attempts to deny the essential hopelessness in his nature. To believe in the viability of nothing, finally, was socially unacceptable, and he had tried to adapt, to pass as a believer, a hoper. He had taken prescription medicine, engaged in periods of vigorous, cleansing exercise, declared his satisfaction with any number of fatuous jobs and foolish relationships. Then one day he’d decided that he should marry, have a child, and he told himself that if one was open-minded these things could lead to a kind of contentment, if not to exuberant happiness. That’s why Loomis was in the fix he was in now.
I haven’t done a review around here in a long time; fortunately Tom Bennitt over at Fiction Writer’s Review picks up the slack and gets the job done. His reaction was more or less mine:
At times I asked myself, how human are these characters? Are they alive, or are they perhaps dead spirits wandering in search of their past lives? Whatever the answer, and despite their often hopeless plights, I cared about these characters and was moved by them. I attribute this to Watson’s great skill as a writer; his voice in each of theirs carried me seamlessly through this collection.