cover image Ghost Pains

Ghost Pains

Jessi Jezewska Stevens. And Other Stories, $19.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-913505-84-4

Stevens (The Visitors) returns with a skillful and expansive collection ranging from Nabokovian confessions to fabulist sketches. In the standout “Rumpel,” a man on trial for an unspecified crime tells his story from the witness stand, complete with prurient digressions about his virtual reality porn habits. The brief “Letter to the Senator” portrays a gathering of friends in which the narrator feels inconsequential. While remembering her childhood love for the film Fantasia, she slips through a crack in the floorboards. In “Honeymoon,” a recently married woman with a difficult mother-in-law visits Tuscany with her husband. “Being a tourist,” the unnamed narrator explains as she chafes under the relentless schedule of churches and frescoes, is “the most undignified position of all.” The unnamed protagonist of “Weimar Whore” is undergoing a temporal shift: the year is 2021 and yet she is slipping into the past, “stewing cabbages while darning her socks,” wearing wool in the summer, and “fretting over inflation.” Though some of the entries feel more like exercises than fully-formed stories, Stevens remains a distinctive prose stylist with a wry sense of humor and an inventive approach to plot. Readers will enjoy visiting Stevens’s delightfully weird world. Agent: Chris Clemans, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Mar.)