Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Bittersweet Creek and Other Stories, by Christopher Rowe

This chapbook (by the fine people at Small Beer Press, long may they reign) showcases five of Rowe's stories, four previously published and one new. All are wonderful. One of the best things about Rowe is his authorial voice--his gift for dialogue, his lyrical rhythms (go see him read if you get the chance). Three of these stories--the title piece, "Sally Harpe" and "Kin to Crows," are loosely connected, set in a rural Kentucky that is as rich and alive as Macondo or Yoknapatawpha County. The odd happenings of these stories are treated as almost commonplace by the inhabitants, and manage to transcend and comment on the world at large. Then there is "The Dreaming Mountains," which reads like an ancient ceremonial ballad. It concerns the dragon Appalach and his impending waking, and to say more would be to give away too much. Finally, the new story here is "Men of Renown," which starts with giants in the earth and, well, progresses from there. The haunting cover is by Shelley Jackson. Rowe deserves more attention; this chapbook is part of a limited run, I believe, so order up your copies quick.