cover image The Orange Suitcase: Stories

The Orange Suitcase: Stories

Joseph Riippi, Ampersand (SPD, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (140p) ISBN 978-0-9841025-5-6

Meandering associations and tenderhearted memories vie for a bit of light in Riipi's mild, ironic first collection (after novel Do Something! Do Something! Do Something!). The orange suitcase is hauled around for decades as recounted in the first tale, "Something (Entirely True) About Your Grandfather," and becomes an abiding metaphor for the collection as a whole—ungainly but earnest and, in the end, charming. A small detail carries a host of meanings, such as the coat the narrator wears while hanging his grandmother's Christmas lights in "Something about the Rest"; it makes him look like his grandfather's brother, she tells him, before he set off from their farm in Finland "to fight the Russians" and was never heard from again. Several of the pieces concern a lost friend from the narrator's youth, Ben Jensen, now a poet, who may have been spotted recently on a Manhattan bus, and whose whereabouts forms a kind of running gag. These quaint briefs are light and agreeable, but perhaps too much so: they leave the mind as easily as they enter. (Mar.)