Favorite New Fiction
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Near Haven: A Novel

Near Haven: A Novel

May 1st, 1988. In Near Haven—Matthew Stephen Sirois’s provocative and deftly paced debut novel—it’s the date a comet is predicted to strike the Earth, ending civilization. In the face of what appears to be certain doom, society crumbles in advance of the comet—from helplessness and hopelessness, and from the violence they fuel.

But not everyone is hopeless, including the novel’s protagonist and conscience, Tom Beaumont, whose story begins about ten months before the comet’s expected arrival. A boat builder in the fictional seaside town of Near Haven, Maine, Tom is skeptical about assurances that the comet will strike, and about pretty much every other variety of received wisdom. His views isolate him from just about everyone other than his friend Neville “Nev” Bradford, who, with Tom, struggles to survive as social order dissolves.

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Short Story Shout-Out: Round 2

Short Story Shout-Out: Round 2

As a huge fan of short fiction, I initiated Short Story Shout-Out a couple of months ago. Here’s a recap of my reason for doing so:

Given the wealth of literary journals publishing new stories every day, why limit myself to anthologies and collections? Why not say a few words every now and then about individual (recently published) stories that I have found especially moving, funny, thought-provoking, or wonderfully strange?

In my first Short Story Shout-Out, I focused on two new literary journals (The Offing and Pear Drop) that are publishing remarkable works of short fiction. This time around, I’m focusing on stories from just one new publication, Mud City Journal, which describes itself as “an online literary journal promoting the ideals and vision of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Low Residency MFA Program.” The stories discussed below are from the Mud City Journal’s recently published second issue, and I highly recommend each one of them.

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Short Story Shout-Out

Short Story Shout-Out

I’m a huge fan of short stories, and it’s been a great pleasure to review multi-author anthologies, as well as collections by such writers as Lee A. Jacobus, Garnett Kilberg Cohen, Jennifer Woodworth, Dale Bridges, Wendy J. Fox, Adetokunbo Abiola, Paula Bomer, Melody Mansfield, Steven Schwartz, and Jessica Francis Kane.

But recently something occurred to me: given the wealth of literary journals publishing new stories every day, why limit myself to anthologies and collections? Why not say a few words every now and then about individual (recently published) stories that I have found especially moving, funny, thought-provoking, or wonderfully strange? So this will be the first of what I hope will be somewhat regular posts about just those kinds of stories. The pieces discussed in this post come from two fairly new journals: The Offing and Pear Drop.

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Hiatus

Dear Readers,

I’m going to be taking a bit of a break from Small Press Picks to deal with some personal issues (mainly, the loss of two parents in four months’ time) and to try to get a new novel of mine out into the world. I am looking forward to getting back into the reviewing saddle in the spring, and I hope you’ll tune back in then.

Thanks,

Beth Castrodale

Editor, Small Press Picks

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Unhappy Holidays?

Unhappy Holidays?

For many people, the holidays can be far from joyous, especially for those who are grieving a loss: of a friend or loved one, of a way of life, or of anything else that felt—that was—essential and now is gone.

For a portion of the grieving, including me, few things are more depressing than full-bore holiday cheer: for example, Christmas carols lacking minor chords, or seasonal dramas or comedies with barely a hint of darkness. For people like us, any entertainment that aims to skirt the gloom seems to land us deep in the middle of it.

All this is to say that during this particular holiday season, I’m not turning my back on books, movies, or any other forms of entertainment that are less than cheery, or that face loss head-on. A binge re-watch of Six Feet Under, for instance, has helped me engage more deeply in, and deal with, death and grief, and the humor it delivers is just the kind of humor I need right now.

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