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)
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