Short-short fiction can be hit or miss, and readers of Alex Epstein’s surreal miniatures in Blue Has No South may find many of them to be head-scratching misses. But with 116 stories spread over 132 pages, it would be difficult not to find anything to enjoy in Epstein’s latest volume of stories, his first to be translated from Hebrew to English. But what is a story? Must it have a beginning, middle, and end? Must there be conflict and resolution? “No!” says Blue Has No South, offering stories that read more like fragments (some are a sentence long) or, perhaps, colloquial prose poems. Although some rhythm and subtlety is unavoidably lost in translation, Epstein’s writing at its best features evocative imagery, such as when he writes of unraveling the “braid of January’s last rain into the threads of a dozen plots.” Many of the stories, however, read like strings of nonsequiturs held together by an enigmatic title, and given that some of the more memorable pieces in the collection concern writers or artists (“The Dedication,” “The Writer from Mars,” “Portrait of the Artist as an Artist”), Epstein’s readers might look forward to longer, more satisfying portrayals of the author’s inward and outward struggles.
Marc E. Keller grew up in Bucks County, PA, and attended the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), earning degrees in Anthropology and Urban Studies. He has published short fiction in Pindeldyboz, Forge, The Legendary, and the Bucks County Writer, among others. Currently he works in the development office at Penn, managing prospect research.