(Richard Chiem reads at Elliott Bay Book Company tonight at 7 pm with Rauan Klassnik and Willie Fitzgerald. The reading is free.)
The thing about Richard Chiem's short stories is that occasionally a sentence will just jump off the page and waggle in front of your eyes for a while, daring you to remember the last time you read something so packed with meaning. In his book You Private Person (Scrambler Books, $12), there's one line in a story called "Animal" about a boxer, mid-fight, fantasizing about what his girlfriend is doing. He "wonders if Sam is at home watching the fight, if she is sitting down or walking around eating food listening to the fight." Then, Chiem writes, "He is more there than he is here even when he gets up and walks to the middle of everything."
Something about the rhythm of the sentence, the "there" then "here" then "everything," without any mitigating commas slopping things up in between, fuses this sentence into something pristine. It's as though the other sentences are built around this sentence on delicate latticework, that this sentence is the engine that provides the energy for the rest of the story.
Chiem's language is just like that—stripped-down and descriptive, as is the style with the young vanguard of literary authors, without ornamental punctuation or authorial intrusion or expository (in the words of the late, great Elmore Leonard) hooptedoodle. Also in line with authors like Tao Lin and Chelsea Martin and Marie Calloway, many of these stories are interested in relationships and feel, at least partially, autobiographical...