Tuesday, March 31, 2009

'Little Stories'

by Jeff Roberts
Fiction/Short stories, 2008
Outskirts Press, hardback, 96 p.
The tales and vignettes in Little Stories were first penned by author Jeff Roberts during his undergraduate years at the University of Iowa, where he tried to balance school with the full-time task of being a writer. Whether he’s writing about the end of a love relationship or the pain in dealing with the loss of a beloved pet, Roberts’ quietly moving stories are packed with real emotion and rich detail.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this slim collection of stories. Many of the stories seemed distinctly autobiographical, and while there’s nothing wrong with drawing from personal experience, it often felt like I was reading a selection of his writing exercises rather than completed works. It’s very obviously a self-published book and I think it would’ve served him better to work on the stories a bit more before trying to find a wider audience for them.
The author does state the following in the prologue:
These stories are a compilation of my work at the University of Iowa. I’ve included all of the stories I’ve written so far, the immature as well as the over cooked, the writing that makes me cringe as well as the phrases that fill with pride when I see them scroll across the page.
So even the author himself admits that not all of these stories are polished, and I thought some of the characters could’ve been given a bit more depth, but there are good ideas here, the core of what could make great stories. And I did enjoy some of them. He tackled themes I usually enjoy in fiction, like how we can never truly know someone, and many of the stories effectively portray the pain involved when dealing with loss and disappointment. The last story, Cosette, about a beloved family pet was especially moving.

Actually, one of my main complaints is that there were really quite an unfortunate lot of typos. There were times when there were several of them on a single page, so needless to say I found it very distracting. I can forgive a few typos or grammatical blunders, but this was a bit excessive.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this title, but I think the author has potential, and it might be interesting to read something else by him in the future to see how he has grown as a writer.

Thank you to the author, Jeff Roberts, and Bostick Communications for the opportunity to read this book.

Interview with the author

First sentence: (Relativity) It is 4 a.m., and the only light now is the dim, green light cast by the tuner from the front console on the stereo and the glowing, hazy fog it casts across the living room.

My Rating: 2.5/5
(#19 for 2009, ARC Reading Challenge)

If you've also reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.

8 comments:

  1. Short stories are hard for me, I can't leave a very insightful comment here on that.

    But, your blog is just gorgeous Tanabata. The soothing gray, the peaceful layout, the lovely header of spring blossoms. It just made me sigh with its beauty.

    I was playing around with buttons for the Japanese literature 3 challenge, and I wondered if you would be willing to send me a photo so that we could use it as the background for the challenge button. Does that sound like a huge imposition to you? I just think you a.) take such fantastic pictures b.) have your finger on the pulse living there in Japan. Let me know, my friend.

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  2. I have this book sitting on my shelves as well. If he was trying to sell himself as a writer I would have expected him to polish his works before publishing them to sell them better! I shall give you my feedback once I have actually read this book! Thanks for the honest review. It is good to read a review that actually tells you what a book really is without sugar coatig it with compliments!

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  3. Bellezza - I quite like short stories sometimes. If they're well written they can be wonderful.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog layout. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, and I'm glad you like it.

    As for a button for the Japanese Literature Challenge, sure! Is there any kind of image you had in mind? I'll try to have a look through my photos this weekend.

    Ramya - I'll be curious to know what you think of this when you get around to reading it. Honestly I was a little surprised he published it as is.
    Sometimes it's hard to review a book we didn't love, but I tried to be fair while still being honest, and I hope that came through.

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  4. Tanabata, no hurry. The challenge doesn't start until July 30. I have a button all prepared, with the famous painting of the people walking over the bridge (Hell if I can find a name for it!). I just thought it would be much nicer to use one of your photographs should you be willing to donate one. I think anything with nature, or books, would be great. And really, I hope I'm not imposing.

    By the way, you have a small award at Dolce Bellezza.

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  5. I also like shorts when they are done well. I think I will pass on this collection.

    BTW, I love the new look of your blog!

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  6. Bellezza - I'm glad you said no hurry, because I didn't in fact get around to looking through my photos on the weekend. I will do it soon though, promise. And no, you're not imposing! And thank you so much for the award! :)

    Teddy Rose - Thanks, I had fun working on it, and still need to tweak a few things when I get a chance.
    I've started another book of short stories and even though I've only read a couple, they are just so much more polished so I'm really enjoying them.

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  7. Thanks for the honest review. The typos and the unpolished nature of the work mean I'll pass on this one.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  8. Anna - You're welcome. There were some good ideas but overall it was pretty disappointing.

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