Around twenty years ago, I wrote some short stories, which, from this grizzled, objective distance, I can safely admire for their humor, truth, poetry, and vigor. Eight are included in my 2000 chapbook collection, Among the Living and Other Stories, which was succinctly described by its publisher as, “Eight crooked short stories of serious alienation.” There’s a tremendous amount of wordplay in that little book of awkward, unhappy, or otherwise eccentric lives, and somehow, out of this music, there arises a feeling of strength, worth, resilience, and a stubborn kind of hope, an impression that puts me in mind of the closing lines of Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable:
Perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.
Three of the stories appeared previously in small magazines, one of them again in 2012. The title story was translated into Armenian by Samvel Mkrtchyan, and later appeared in a literary newspaper published in Yerevan by the Writers Union of Armenia. I remember meeting a businessman named Vahe in a hotel room in Portland, Oregon, and being given an over-sized brown envelope stuffed with copies of the issue in question. I also remember meeting several of his friends, who arrived shortly after I did; how we all took turns shaking hands; and how they hadn’t the slightest idea of who I was or why I was there. Had they asked, I might have answered in all sincerity, “I don’t know, really, but here I am.”
What started me on this subject is that I dug up a copy of the chapbook a few days ago, to see if anything in it might be of merit or interest. How one forgets! Who were these outrageous, audacious strangers making me laugh and giving me chills? Were they my tortured creations, or my former selves? The answer, of course, is both. And if that is true, who are they, who are we, and who am I now? To which I can only reply, “I don’t know, really, but here we are.”
I don’t know how many copies of the chapbook were sold, but the number was small. The translated title story had by far the largest readership. A handful of the chapbooks are in university libraries. I thought I had more, and maybe I do, but on my initial search I found only two. I’m fairly sure the publisher still has a few. Maybe this should be investigated. In the meantime, I think I will publish some of the stories here — in keeping with the spirit of this project, and for the pleasure of making them known.
Among the Living and Other Stories
35 pp, 5½ x 8½, saddle-stitched, card cover,
cover art by the author, author photo,
MuscleHead Press, Russell, New York
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Categories: Among the Living and Other Stories