cover image Pulp and Paper

Pulp and Paper

Josh Rolnick. Univ. of Iowa, $16 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-60938-052-6

In a creditable first collection, Rolnick splits his time between New Jersey and New York. Each setting offers four tales and feature narrators who are often sensitive adolescents grappling with the pain of growing up. The picturesque prose in “Mainlanders,” recalling that of Donald Hall’s stories, finds Tubby Boyd and Nick Swan, high school pals, living on the Jersey Shore and making plays for the bored girls visiting from the mainland. Will Taft, 15, in “Innkeeping” is happy helping his widowed mother run a beachside B&B until a vascular surgeon from Chicago arrives and the resentful Will plots to sabotage the budding romance. In New York, life is no less complicated. In the most accomplished piece, “Big River,” Finch, a basement waterproofing technician, argues with his restless longtime girlfriend about an abortion. “Big Lake” features Flip, 13, a boy from a provincial town who feels responsible for his teacher’s drowning death until her husband assuages his guilt. Other tales, such as “The Carousel,” featuring an old merry-go-round operator on Coney Island, add charm to this satisfying debut. (Oct.)