I’ve always been choosy when it comes to short story collections; I find it annoying, usually, to have to reinvest myself into different characters and scenes time and time again. Call me lazy.
That said, I've managed to find five exceptional collections over the past year (1 2 3 4 5). Now I can add the first for 2006.
Christopher Meeks has put together a collection that is so stunning, so impeccably written that I could not help but move on to the next story each and every time, until a quick glance of this book turned into a consumption. THE MIDDLE-AGED MAN AND THE SEA is comprised of 13 stories, each about the human experience. (Granted, that is one overused term, but nothing could fit these vignettes any better.)
Meeks has a real talent for giving you everything you need to know about the characters and setting without letting details get in the way. In the first story of his collection, Academy Award Afternoon & Evening, a mere three full pages long, Meeks gives you the full details about the four characters in bite-sized chunks and leaves it at that:
As we approach the counter that divides the two rooms, I see Lila wears a baggy, gray sweatshirt that gives little sense to her form, as if she is out of focus.
Perhaps the most amazing element of the set is the title story, which brings together two men (related only by having married women who are sisters) of completely different types, who share a fishing expedition where the revelation of one's impending death becomes the topic of conversation.
I'm telling you: the human experience.
Meeks is a talent to watch, a writer blessed with a genuine gift for narration and storytelling. And should he produce a full length novel in the near future, it will certainly get bumped to the front of the line with me. For now, though, just enjoy THE MIDDLE-AGED MAN AND THE SEA. Believe me, you will.
Grab it on Amazon for$12.94 or in e-book form from Lulu for only $3.56. Also, you can check out a video interview with Chris Meeks right here.