cover image Fire Year

Fire Year

Jason K. Friedman. Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 (200p) ISBN 978-1-936747-64-1

These seven funny, fearless outsiders’ tales set in Savannah and Atlanta—some depicting bygone orthodox Jewish communities, others the rife-with-irony “New South”—gravitate toward taboo. One preoccupation of Friedman’s Mary McCarthy Prize–winning debut collection is the breakdown of traditional mores, but its standouts specifically tackle pent-up sexual desire. In “Blue,” a bar mitzvah celebrant recalls the religious awakening inspired by a plate of veal parmesan that extinguished his “fascination” with men’s bodies; the narrator of “Reunion” finds himself pursued by a onetime high school golden boy, for surprising reasons both friendly and libidinous; and in “There’s Hope for Us All,” a curator discovers an erotic secret behind his latest art exhibition—and another in his personal life. Throughout, Friedman’s warm, lively voice and characters fluently convey the region’s contradictions and just-roll-with-it humor. (The narrator of “Reunion” notes the Confederate flag hanging alongside the American one at a hometown karate tournament, then quips, “The hospitality of Southerners is exaggerated.”) In other stories in which people wrestle with grave religious concerns, Friedman tunes his pacing and diction to the moral issues at stake. Strengthened by the diversity in subject matter, the through-line of sexual coming-of-age and temptation gives this volume a satisfying coherence. (Nov.)