Stories in the Old Style

Published By: Press 53

Book Category: Fiction, Short Stories

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Reviewed by Julie Failla Earhar

It is nice to finally read a collection of short stories that don't have a central, underlying theme or that isn't trying to pretend to be a novel. I miss the old days when a publisher would bound a group of well-written stories by one author.

Thankfully, Press 53 shares my nostalgia and has published Al Sim's first collection of short stories appropriately titled Stories in the Old Style. This small collection illustrates Sim's many talents, especially in the use of language, movement, and setting.

I've been on a campaign lately to look, think, and talk about how our spoken language is written. Must we as authors continually use swear words and brand names to convey contemporary times?

Sim confirms what I've thought and taught. Setting the mood with well-chosen words can make the reader indulge in the stories (repeat stories) without having to bother with dissecting dialect or feel as if they are reading an infomercial. This especially rings true in the two related stories "Chuy's Truck" and "La Estupidez de Cosas." I knew the characters were Hispanic without having to decipher cliched dialect.

Another great instance is the story "The Freedom Pig," which I probably rank as my favorite. It takes place before the Emancipation Proclamation and readers know this by the author command of the language, tone and setting.

I have two nagging problems with Stories in the Old Style. One is that I want more--more of these characters that are real and have real lives and do real things. I guess one could say that Stories in the Old Style is realty storytelling as its finest. The other problem I must comment on is the archaic use of 'till.' I know the author means 'til' or 'until' but his consistent use of the preposition got in the way of the stories and jolted this reader back to reality. But that's just a little thing.

Armchair Interviews says: If you like short stories that are well written, check out this book.

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