cover image Roy’s World

Roy’s World

Barry Gifford. Seven Stories, $24.95 (720p) ISBN 978-1-644-21022-2

Gifford (the Sailor and Luna series) collects his stories and novellas about a boy named Roy and his seedy, charming world for a staggering omnibus that includes 18 new stories and sweeps back to the 1973 collection A Boy’s Novel. Though he occasionally verges on adolescence, Roy is mainly portrayed as five to seven years old, picking up life lessons from showgirls, gamblers, gangsters, and hardscrabble streets , but still occasionally including a tender game of baseball, as in “The Winner.” Roy starts out life in Florida, where, as seen in “A Good Man to Know,” his father is involved in organized crime. Roy’s mother, after his parents’ divorce when Roy is eight, brings one “rat” after another into their lives, so much so that in “Unspoken,” Roy tries to arrange to live with a neighbor. In “Memories of a Sinking Ship,” Roy’s mom takes them both to live in Chicago. Here, the collection truly sings, where a man looks like a “Maxwell Street organ-grinder without the organ or the monkey,” and some stories take on the lurid and matter-of-fact tone of a newspaper crime report, such as “Sick,” in which a dead body is discovered on a lakeside beach. The stories highlight Gifford’s range of styles and registers, even if the book doesn’t quite cohere into a larger narrative. Taken story by story, this collection is full of gems. (Sept.)