The seven stories by Neil Hummasti presented in this collection offer readers an astonishing range of voice, characters, tone and theme. Neil's short fiction is often dark when reporting on the human condition, but he also wrote with hilarity and devastating wit.
Family conflicts arise in several of Neil's stories and his characters never manage to remedy them. Many of the stories feature characters engaged in intense stretches of interior monologue where they struggle to ascertain what's happening inside and around them. The Columbia River exudes a powerful, even tragic, presence in three of the stories. Neil depicts it as almost a character unto itself and his writing about rain explores the rigors of living in a place where it can rain 90 inches a year.
Two stories about the calamity of elderly dementia were most likely precursors to the material on the subject that appears in the novel Forty Ways to Square a Circle and apparently inspired by Neil's long-term care of his elderly aunt who suffered from the disease.
The collection also includes a meta-fictional satire on a publisher who rejects a phone book he thought was a literary submission, a comical coming-of-age story that unfolds at a sixth grade dance, and a Christmas tale with a suggestive hint of partial redemption at the end.
One story as typed by Neil on a typewriter has been retained in its original visual form to serve as a kind of primary source document for the reader to see Neil's unique mind at work when it comes to punctuation and other stylistic flourishes that modern keyboarding has eliminated.
Some of the stories were written under the pseudonym of Ben Champion (as was the novel I See London, I see France...). Why Neil wrote using a pseudonym is unknown. It is impossible to determine when Neil wrote these short stories and no precise accounting of rejections and acceptances was left behind. Neil wrote nearly 30 short stories and essays in his lifetime and at least six of the stories were published in literary reviews and other publications.
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