Worldly Goods

Alice Petersen. Biblioasis (Consortium/Perseus, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $14.95 trade paper (172p) ISBN 978-177196-080-9
Petersen's (All the Voices Cry) second collection of short stories is assured and stylistically confident. Most of the 15 stories are set (and seem to be set, even when they are not) in a timeless near-past before the Internet, cell phones, and reality television. It's a slower, less showy world in which the worldly goods of the title—pearls, record players, poems on scraps of paper—are not disposable but have history and significance. Many of the characters are disappointments to themselves and others: they are not damaged so much as slightly dented, carrying on the risible business of growing old purely for lack of better options. Scars typically acquired in an average life are held to the light, treated with sensitivity, and shown as both individual and universal. The reader is alternately lured into identification with the characters and left wondering whether scorn or pity might be a more appropriate reaction. Petersen's knowledge of and precise language for subjects such as natural history, the domestic arts, and music add to the classical feel of these stories, set all around the English-speaking Commonwealth. Crisp sentences and slightly old-fashioned vocabulary combine gratifyingly with evocative visual imagery to make this collection a pleasure to read. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/25/2016
Release date: 06/14/2016
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 176 pages - 978-1-77196-081-6
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