It would be very cool to be able to say something unique about how one should not be surprised that things that come in small packages can still kick serious ass, literary and otherwise. Sadly, I believe we all know this already. Still, we are sitting here with two collections that may not cover much space in terms of word count, but in terms of impact and emotion, the range of feelings present in these collections are wonderous, and all the more so given the packaging and platform.
mesogeios is by old friend Steve Karas and it is a triumph in many ways. For one, Karas tells stories full of motion and energy, his characters always wanting more from a world that doesn't seem to care about what they want. He also brings a global and immigrant flavor to his work, a sense of place, and more of an appreciation for the wider world than we generally can expect from our American authors. Karas' true gift however, is his ability to weave threads of pain and loss into his stories, though not in ways that hit you over the head, but lingering just below the surface, roiling and laying in wait, until they finally burst forth, the pressure too much for both the characters and the reader. Most finally though, for now, Karas' real triumph may be something more mundane - his ability to follow his dazzling debut collection Kinda Sort American Dream with more dazzle, more empathy and more vivid characterization. Karas is still at the start of his journey, but he is kicking ass every step of the way, which is no small feat indeed.
SUPERMAN ON THE ROOF by Lex Williford is both of a kind with mesogeios, and then not at all. Vivid. Full of energy and empathy. The pain though is not below the surface. Nor is the violence. The stories are linked, and what you have is the exploration of one family, parents and siblings, a singular tragic event, their losses, how they suffer and the reverberations of that suffering over time. It's not all pain however, and the stories which can be read as a collective gasp certainly don't end that way. It's just that one cannot quite escape just how suffocating loss can be, neither the characters nor the reader. It's all so richly drawn and gripping though, that we want to write this as it must be written, the pain cannot be escaped, but we also want to stress that we don't want you to run away from it, but run towards it, wholeheartedly. For us the stories linger, oozing into our brain, and implanting themselves there, and while we have read so many great words this year, these may very well be our very favorite ones of all.
Small packages, big punches, pain and empathy. Both mesogeios and SUPERMAN ON THE ROOF deliver the lit goods. They are also sure to change your life. So do hit them. Post-haste.