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In this collection of stories written between 2002 and 2006, James Black investigates the myriad and curious ways people react to the most conspicuous absences in their lives. A son suddenly starts seeing his father everywhere, half a decade after the man’s death (“Hibakusha”). A deadbeat dad decides to meet his son, but only after the boy has been slain and buried (“The Kind of Man Who”). A panicked divorcée manages to bring his ex back into his daily life using crossword puzzles, which he seriously overthinks (“Holophrastic”). In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a young man decides to pack his life inside a camper, and drag it all to higher ground (“Horse Latitudes”). A caregiver discovers a typographical error on his birth certificate, which allows him to develop a second self, capable of many things which he is not (“[sic]“). The fourteen stories in Happiness is a each strive to lay bare the truth in the late Kurt Vonnegut’s assertion that loneliness is the worst disease by which mankind has ever been stricken. And in the desolate interior worlds described by Black’s texts, the idea that the affliction can be permanently cured is dubious at best.
|Praise for Happiness is a:
“['Hibakusha' is] One of the best stories I’ve ever read.”—Tony Leuzzi, author of Radiant Losses and Tongue-Tied & Singing
|“Happiness is a literary bacchanalia of…rhythmic grace, black humor, and pop culture artifacts strewn about the fourteen stories collected within. Haunted by the past, creating their own present and future realities, Black’s characters dream the dead back to life, elevate themselves and belongings above the destruction of the natural world, unable to navigate the human experience without fail. They are fatherless sons, would-be-mothers, looking for love, daydreaming greatness, pulling at straws. As readers, we’re left to root through the detritus of lives we’ll likely despise, pity, and ultimately recognize. This debut marks the emergence of a distinct voice in contemporary fiction—a voice that doesn’t falter throughout—and what I suspect is merely a first glimpse at a prolific body of work.”—Stephen Andrew Palermo, author of Permanence is Relative.|
|“Each year I try to select a piece that ‘tweaks’ the boundaries of fiction a bit. ‘[sic]‘ did that for us this year.” —Michael J. Brien, editor of Amoskeag Journal.|
Still Missing Flight Myself: the collected poetry of James Black.
80 pages, trade paperback (6″ x 9″)
Exploring moments of both transcendent beauty and abject desolation, this collection provides succinct glimpses into the unspectacular, average lives that most Americans have lead and will always lead—the lives most of us will go to extraordinary lengths to pretend we are not living. The disposable existence of a manicurist suddenly realized; the unexceptional loneliness of a fatherless child who has become used to his predicament; the minor frustrations of listening to an unjacketed LP; or driving home drunk enough to no longer care about the ramifications of drunk driving: the poems here collected expose and inflate quotidian moments until each seems like the paradox it actually is—simultaneously singularly significant and utterly, ineluctably forgettable.