A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness

four chapbooks of short fiction by four women
by Amy L. Clark, Elizabeth Ellen, Kathy Fish,
and Claudia Smith
ISBN: 9780978984830

This book is the answer to why I sometimes comb through the shelves at small, independent bookstores reading every title on every spine: I never know when I’ll uncover a gem, something I’ve never heard of before that turns out to be amazing.

Yes, this book is that good and no, I’d never heard of any of these writers before. You can bet I’ll be on the lookout for more of their work now. This collection of short stories is really a collection of chapbooks, meaning it pulls together four not conventionally published as book length collections — and it means I’ll start paying more attention indie presses putting out chapbooks, because I really liked how it works as a format.

It’s hard to pick out bits I really liked when there are so many, but I am compelled to share just a few of the lines that grabbed me:

“…magic today is really just public survival”
(from “Looking for Nick Westlund on the MBTA” by Amy L. Clark)

“… I have a certain kind of hopefulness that some people call a problem with authority.”
(from “Things I have wanted to be when I grow up” by Amy L. Clark)

“It is a well-known but oft-forgotten fact that children are unable to tell lies in the dark. With adults you can never be certain. Some can, some can’t. It depends upon the retained permeability of their heart.”
(from “That Which is Revealed in the Absence of Light” by Elizabeth Ellen)

This is the kind of book I will read again — the entire collection, or just one of the chapbooks, or individual stories (like Kathy Fish’s “The Next Stanley Kubrick” or Elizabeth Ellen’s “Ground Rules”) — as there is that much going on, that much uncertainty and wonder and many questions. Highly recommended.

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