Known Unknowns: Emmett Stinson

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.