The Back of Beyond: New Stories

Alan Peter Ryan
Alan Peter Ryan. Cemetery Dance (www.cemeterydance.com), $35 (181p) ISBN 978-1-58767-247-7
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
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Exploration of landscape and soul provides a unifying theme for this final collection of four stories by the late Ryan (1943–2011; Amazonas). As characters travel overseas in “Sexual Exploration Is a Crime,” roam interstate highways in “Starvation Valley,” visit unneighborly neighbors in “The Winter’s Tale,” and probe the heart of darkness in “Mountain Man,” the distant and the nearby are shown as equally bleak. Some characters know they are entering ambiguous territory; others realize it after the fact. The passage of time leads to uncertainty about the reality of the physical world, just as it challenges the character of relationships and of identity. Ryan perhaps too frequently inserts obvious signals to the reader—“We were going in the wrong direction, of course”—and the quirky plot elements and slow, prolonged buildup of detail are intriguing but not matched by memorable characters. (May)
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