I Got Somebody in Staunton
By William Henry Lewis

(Amistad, 202 pages)

This collection of 10 tightly written stories is the second such collection from Lewis, and it absolutely seals his reputation as one of the best modern American storytellers around. It's difficult to assess how well the intense humidity of "Kudzu" or the poetic flow of "Rossonian Days" would translate if expanded to novel form, but Lewis seems inherently to understand that some tales are best told concisely. Soaked in rural Southern provincialism – even when they're not taking place in the South, or even in America – Lewis' stories somehow escape being overly romantic, focusing instead on well-crafted (and often disarming) characters and their intertwined lives. Lewis is masterful at quickly and completely establishing a sense of place in these pieces, whether it's a small, dusty town or a languid Bahamian island. One hopes Lewis avoids the pressure to produce a "full-length" book and keeps generating excellent stories like this.

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