1530 Followers
249 Following
richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

I Got Somebody in Staunton: Stories - William Henry Lewis Rating: 3* of fiveThe Book Description: In I Got Somebody in Staunton, the acclaimed William Henry Lewis brings us ten often sensual and always eye-opening tales. "Rossonian Days" follows a Kansas City jazz troupe to a gig in Denver, where they hope to strike it big. This story, itself a swinging riff, is also a humbling chronicle of the evolution of jazz and an incisive look at the history of America's racial divide. In "Potcakes," Carlos Stubbs is troubled and weary in the midst of paradise, obsessed with the incessant barking of dogs. He has a degree he's not using and a woman he's afraid to love. Time is passing, and he must decide whether he'll languish or thrive. "Kudzu" reunites a couple whose sweetly sexual relationship comes to an end when Evvie, a bohemian free spirit, "drove west, drove north, away from here" in search of something more compelling than her small Southern town could offer. And in the title story, "I Got Somebody in Staunton," a Black college professor, haunted by his dying uncle Ize's memories of lynchings and the ways of the old South, flirts with danger by giving a ride to an enigmatic young White woman whose long, blond hair is twisting into dreads.With I Got Somebody in Staunton, Lewis has written stories that will catapult him into the first rank of American storytellers.My Review: The publisher having kindly given one-line synopses above, I confine myself to a summary review. With relief, might I add.Pleasantly euphonious sentences, mildly interesting ideas, and a very strong sense of place make the collection easy on the eyes. The writing is very much the point of the stories, though I won't for a second take away from the emotional impact of the stories chosen. "Shades," a coming-of-age tale featuring a single mom of ineffable coolness and a deadbeat daddy of loud and brassy commonness, is a pitch-perfect evocation of a teenaged boy's first brush with the pain of a separate, unique identity, one not dependent on his parents absent or present. Good stuff, rich and savory, very well crafted indeed.But...and here's why I'm giving the collection 3 stars...I went back through the book looking for call-outs and quotes. (Y'all must've noticed that I like to use quotes to make my point about a book by now.) I found none.Not a one.Like eating a box of dates, or a pan of shortbread: Tasty, yes, but one bite is much like the next, which is much like the last, and nowhere except at the end of one date or cookie can one sense a shift in the textural flow.Uniformly of high quality, the stories suffer from just exactly that: Uniformity.