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Arts & Culture

‘Songs for the Deaf’ and ‘Train Shots’

Local publisher Burrow Press bets on the short story; readers ought to as well

Photo: ‘Train Shots’ Cover art by Tina Craig, License: N/A

‘Train Shots’ Cover art by Tina Craig

Photo: ‘SONGS FOR THE DEAF’ COVER art BY Lesley Silvia, License: N/A


Fans of George Saunders or Donald Barthelme will (not might; will) enjoy John Henry Fleming’s Songs for the Deaf. Like those writers, Fleming’s skill lies in conjuring up surreal situations and presenting characters for whom they are utterly quotidian. The problem of how to keep a floating girl hitchhiker tethered to earth is no more or less compelling than how to cheer her up, or how to forget one’s own misery, in “Weighing of the Heart.” Story by story, Fleming presents 11 miniature worlds, none linked to the other by anything but the assuredness of his telling.

William Giraldi, in his essay “The Mysterious Case of Novel-in-Stories,” points out that American writers dominate the genre of short stories, much as the Russians and the French do novels and the British do plays and poetry. “No other country in the world has produced story writers whose genius rivals that of Ernest Hemingway and Katherine Anne Porter, Raymond Carver and John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor and John O’Hara. We have made the modern form an American original,” claims Giraldi. The support of small presses not bound to sales success may be the only thing propping up this American triumph for now.

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