Saturday, February 21, 2009

nothing like an ocean, Jim Tomlinson, KY short stories

nothing like an ocean, a collection of short stories written by Jim Tomlinson, from Berea, KY was recently published and released from The University of Kentucky Press, and is available through Amazon.

For those who share an interest in Kentucky, in Appalachia, and who enjoy real good honest story about people we might know ourselves, and those stories written real well -- I recommend you check out this book.

I had pre-ordered out of curiosity and looked forward to receiving the collection with a mild anticipation of what looked to me an interesting read… my reading habits are erratic, I tend to read at least a half-dozen books at once -- Jim’s first story in this collection caught me and has pulled me right on through to the end.

He writes in a delicate manner that I do not think I have ever seen myself writing. I am amazed at the mastery of his skill in depicting in small and subtle details the essence of his characters. But he does not write, as he says in an online interview that I found, in single characters, he writes in pairs and multiples of how characters relate and intermingle with each other. You can see and feel this focus on the social fabric come through strongly in his stories.

I want not to give anything away from the pleasure of your discovery, but a taste for those opposed to mountain top removal for coal extraction -- I consider that Jim brings a human context in one story, Overburden that should be used as a poster child, wrapped up in the squeeze of an acorn.

The best testament that I can give to Jim’s craft as a writer is that yesterday on the train into Manhattan, on my way to visit a restoration shop in Connecticut, and a subsequent ferry across Long Island Sound, I was reading and by the time I got to the end of one story I was tearing up and had to set the book down.

It was not a terrible tragedy, it was that Jim has an extraordinary talent to calmly explore and reveal the emotional depths of his character’s lives… even when they are not quite aware of it themselves.

Jim is a masterly writer; his stories come smooth to the reader but it is obvious that good honest labor, with a dose of pain and compassion has gone into creating them. As writer to a writer, and my knowing full well what it takes to get where he has got in his writing, I am sincerely impressed.

This is damned good stuff.

And I am going to make a point to go out today and stand near to the Atlantic.