Friday, June 07, 2002

A Good Short Story is Hard to Find: Part III--Stories for Your More Mature Readers

It's your lucky day, folks! I finished a book...That's reading a book, not writing one.

All the Old Haunts is a book of short stories by Chris Lynch the author of Slot Machine, a personal favorite that I recommend to kids, say, thirteen and up, whenever the opportunity presents itself. (There are some aspects of Slot Machine--and All the Old Haunts--that are on the mature side.) The stories in Old Haunts are well-written--moody, with some variety as far as style goes, and a definite narrative line. Most of them actually end. Unlike Slot Machine, there's very little dark humor (or any humor) at work in this volume. But that's okay. Even I don't think everything needs to be funny.

Some of the stories seem like tradtional "teen problem" tales. Teens dealing with death, teens dealing with abortion, teens dealing with sexuality, teens dealing with murderous tendencies. Okay, so the last one isn't all that traditional. Still.

The best stories, however, are the ones about more mundane adolescent heartache. In The Hobbyist a very tall young man's life is blighted by his need to feel part of the athletic scene in spite of his lack of athletic skill. In Horror Vacui the third member of a group of young friends is left alone with his empty life when the other two become romantically involved. And in Womb to Tomb a boy has a twin so monstrous that one by one their family members are forced to abandon them. Okay, so the last one isn't all that mundane. Still--it was good. And the opening and ending stories--Foghorn and Pissin' and Moanin'--are intricate pieces involving young men's relationships with fathers they want to separate from and cling to.

I've yet to read a book of short stories in which every selection is a winner. All the Old Haunts has more than its share.

You can read an interview with Chris Lynch at