Known Unknowns

Emmett Stinson

Known Unknowns
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Known Unknowns

Emmett Stinson

Emmett Stinson’s debut collection is set largely in Washington DC immediately after September 11 (when the city also had to deal with anthrax scares and sniper attacks). These are engrossing stories that tap into the zeitgeist of disconnection, isolation and the loss of meaningful identity after this world-changing event. With sharp, insightful prose that illuminates the frailty of human relationships, Known Unknowns is an arresting collection that marks the arrival of an exciting new literary talent.

Review

The Long Story Shorts series by Affirm Press just took a giant leap forward. I mean no disrespect to either Barry Divola or Bob Franklin, who preceded Emmett Stinson’s in the series. It’s just that on reading Known Unknowns, you are reawakened to the endless possibilities of the short form.

Stinson originally won the Age Short Story competition in 2005, and the stories featured here prove it was no fluke. Set primarily in post-September 11 Baltimore, the author showcases searing prose, characters struck dumb by their own desire, and friends that are equal parts desire and disaster, connected and yet only seconds from self-destruction. Through it all, we see a quiet desperation as people grasp for something to hold on to. It’s as if September 11 has ruptured Baltimore in its wake, with collaterally damaged characters trying desperately to step away from both history and themselves.

Contrary to popular belief, good stories do not necessarily give you what you want. At their best they are a slap in the face, ideas collapsing in on each other, and the last dying gasp of humanity as it struggles to the surface.

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