Among the Living and Other Stories
I�ve been writing short stories since I was in junior high school, when I regularly annoyed my creative writing teacher with preposterous, windy tales that had little or nothing to do with his assignments. He would often read his students� work in class, but when he came to mine he�d say, �I can�t read this. It�s too long.� Occasionally, he would give in to my demand for equal time, and grimace through my humorous, verbose takes on what was ailing mankind.
Since then, quite a lot has changed. I still write short stories, but, with another three decades of anguish under my belt, my knowledge of the world has broadened. I�ve gained perspective and made countless mistakes. In the process, I�ve learned to be more tolerant, and more accepting of others. For instance, now, instead of hating politicians, I feel sorry for them � not because their jobs are hard, but because lying makes them into something pitiful and grotesque.
I�ve also learned to write. More specifically, I�ve learned that, regardless of its length, for a story to be successful, what you leave out is every bit as important as what you put in. A true sign of maturity in any writer, I think, is when he recognizes the intelligence of his readers, and stops trying to tell them everything. It�s challenging enough to say even one thing clearly, and to highlight it in such a way that it is meaningful without being intrusive. Hammering away at a reader with irrelevant material is not only cruel, it exposes the writer for the lazy, self-centered person he really is.
With this in mind, the eight stories in my debut collection, Among the Living, are lean, but high in nutritional value. Kevin Sampsell, a writer and reviewer from Portland, Oregon, had this to say: �Here�s a mad little treasure of down-and-out tales told with a buoyant voice, one that seems to be on the verge of being really pissed off while always keeping his humor.� Thank you, Kevin. According to my publisher, John Berbrich, the chapbook contains �eight crooked short stories of serious alienation.� This is also true. Tim Scannell, a widely read Small Press reviewer, said: �. . . [Michaelian�s] sentences, always friendly in tone and chockablock with wry references to contemporary human behavior, are witty and often disconcerting. . . . Edging up deftly on Walter Whitman�s cataloguing here � moving with agility toward Samuel Beckett�s The Unnamable. Recommended.�
Of course, you can�t believe everything you read. All I ask is that you believe some of it. With any luck, the stories will take care of the rest. If they don�t � well, don�t hold it against me. I�m a writer, remember. Exaggeration is my business.
A response from Kevin McCollister
A man who eats dinner every day at four. A man with a forty inch waist and a thirty inch inseam. A man who shares a bathroom with nine other men. A cold spaghetti eater, the international spokesman of the dull...they�re all �Among the Living� � but just barely.
So much frustration burns within each one of them that it�s a wonder a scream doesn�t erupt until it does.
The stories of Among the Living are just as well-observed as the beautiful poems in The Painting of You but, damn, they seem to come from an entirely different solar system. The narrators of your stories are sardonic, whipped dogs who can�t wait for it all to be over. The man who cared for his ailing mother, however, imagines her eating bowls of cereal with butterflies in her hair.
I think most of us would admit, however reluctantly, to living most of our lives in the world of Among the Living. It�s the possibility of spending a few moments in the world of The Painting of You that makes us smile in anticipation.
35 pp, 5� x 8�, saddle-stitched, card cover, $4.00, cover art by the author
MuscleHead Press, Russell, New York
Available from BoneWorld Publishing
3700 County Route 24, Russell NY 13684.
For signed copies, contact the author.
UB Libraries, New York � Special Collections
Among the Living
University of Michigan � Dearborn
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
80 pages. Paper.
Signed copies available
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