Dear Reader—You’ll know from last week’s post that wonderful things can happen when you’re a Literary Lion.
One example is that I discovered Steve Fox’s debut short story collection, Sometimes Creek. I heartily recommend it. You may just be captivated by Steve’s unique slant on stories that in other circumstances—for example, if I had written them—would be ordinary.
The stories in this book are far from ordinary. Here’s my review:
by Steve Fox
It’s real life as lived in the Upper Midwest on those days when the air is numinous and reality must be seen on a slant to be viewed at all.
The seventeen stories in Steve Fox’s collection Sometimes Creek are regional, populated by folks you know from down the block. They are also universal tales where things happen, in the plot but most of all inside the characters, that stand your expectations on end and make you think about the human condition.
In “The Butcher’s Ghost,” a man and woman slip, separately, into a clifftop bistro with a haunted past—each taking refuge from world-woundedness. The two lonely souls seem like ships passing in the night, but you realize gradually that something more is going on.
The title story, “Sometimes Creek,” gives us a father and daughter in the grip of overpowering grief, who must relocate their household into a neighborhood crazed with its annual Halloween rituals. The neighbors welcome their healing hearts with a mix of help and hindrance, which may or may not make things come round right in the end.
Each of the stories in this collection is multi-layered, dense with nuance and surprise. They are stories that will repay a second or even a third reading. You notice something new each time around.
If you’ve been captured by such masters as Jack Finney and Stephen King, these stories may transport you to similar territory. Two thumbs up, but only because that’s all the thumbs I’ve got.
Steve Fox can be found, and Sometimes Creek ordered, at https://stevefoxwrites.com.
Now For Something Completely Different:
Another part of the world has been heard from regarding Peco Yeh’s extant paintings.
Peco Yeh is a Chinese artist who plied his wares in Taipei in the latter half of the last century. Your New Favorite Writer had the opportunity to meet him, and I bought a painting from him for a scandalously low price. I have written about that painting, a waterscape, and the experience of acquiring and owning it, in this very blog, here and here.
In the latter post I also mentioned Earline Dirks, who emailed me that she owns a Peco Yeh painting—an interesting study of two figures, one a young boy, examining a lantern.
Now another collector steps forth. Joshua Lowe of Beckley, West Virginia (“Right in the middle of the Appalachian coal fields”) wrote me as follows:
“It was 2012 maybe 2013, a friend of mines uncle had passed and his house was scheduled for demolition. I was asked if I would come to the property with my metal detectors, he wanted to scan the property before the dozers arrived. We scanned found some coins nothing notable. The home was dilapidated and the family had split and taken all the possessions that they where fond of or deemed valuable. I was asked if I would like to “tour the home” and was told anything I like just take it, because everything else would be left in the home during demolition and hauled off. We went room to room thru the home nothing notable or out of the ordinary for an abandoned home. There where dishes and faux silverware scattered thru the kitchen, magazines and stacks of readers digests lay scattered in most of the living areas!
“We came into the den and a stack pictured laid against the wall, most where nothing more than everyday prints that you would find in any cut rate motel, Home interior or pier 21. As I went thru the stack of pictures, it was there.
It jumped out ! It was something did not belong in this stack! I had no idea who Peco Yeh was! But, that did not matter, I knew this one was painted and framed by hand, I knew this one had some age and it grasped my attention and knew that it did not belong in the trash! I took the painting with me that day. I still appreciate and admire it as much now as I did then! I was told that the original owner was military and was stationed in Southeast Asia many years ago. Thru the little research I have done I have no doubts that this was bought during his tours in Southeast Asia maybe even from Peco Yeh himself.”
Here is a photo Joshua Lowe took of his Peco Yeh painting:
On the face of it, it’s a simple urban scene, a narrow street or alley vanishing into the distance in a classic perspective drawing exercise. Right at the convergence point is a small white-clothed figure—male or female, impossible to tell. In my view, it’s that human figure alone who gives this scene a spark of interest. Unlike the boatman in my painting, who is clearly a boatman: or the young boy in Earline’s painting, who is clearly a young boy: this person is a mere sliver in the distance—enigmatic, mysterious. The alley is ordinary, but the person—is he, or she, coming or going? Is he, or she, carrying something on his or her head? The legs, vague and spindly though they are, convey a feeling of motion, dynamism in a static setting. Wouldn’t you like to know who it was that Peco had in mind? I sure would.
I have no reason to think Peco was a great artist. Yet here are three paintings—mine, Earline’s, and Joshua’s—that lead the eye to explore a bit beyond the deceptively simple surface of things. For that, I thank him.
Larry F. Sommers
Your New Favorite Writer