For short story lovers, the only thing more engaging than reading this former K-Stater’s collection is hearing her read her stories aloud as she did on campus several months ago.
Usually, I seek out short stories while traveling, quick reads to be recycled to others – immediately entertaining and quickly forgotten. Not so with the stories by this author.
Like her award-winning The Trouble with You and Other Stories, this collection of nineteen exquisitely crafted tales is a keeper. Her perspective is characteristically introspective, down-to-earth, multi-layered angst. Most of the stories are edgy, anxious and unpredictable. They are usually the often wacky thoughts of the female narrator, but even the rare bits of dialogue are brief but loaded with meaning.
Two of the stories, “Wives” and “Falling Up” are male reflections on their bizarre spouses, told with more resignation than those of the nervous female narrators, but in equal parts unwittingly humorous and chilling.
The impact of these disparate stories range from my immediate recollection of similar episodes as in “I’ve Looked Everywhere” to feelings of hilarity and relief at having escaped the debacle described in the title story. The complexities, heartaches and even unexpected good luck of some aborted relationships is captured in prose as spare and precise as its meaning is broad.
Susan Jackson Rodgers wrote her first collection of stories while getting her MA and teaching fiction at K-State. She went on to get an MFA degree from Bennington before going to Oregon State University where she wrote this book while teaching creative writing and literature.
She credits her interest in the arts to her mother, actress Maggie Jackson, and her late father, a film-maker. Whatever the inspiration for her uneasy and unforgettable characters, she encourages the reader to look with more empathy and humor on the jarring, bizarre, and whimsical moments in everyday relationships.
The writer is an emeritus professor of political science at Kansas State University.