Where Handstands Surprise Us: Where Handstands Surprise Us By Sean Carswell

          This anthology of short fiction (plus a few poems) documents a reading series in New Albany, Indiana. Judging from the writing here, it must be a pretty fun series. Most of the authors are pretty much unknown. I suspect that some of them are still in college. Still, there are no stinkers in this collection. While some of the writing may be pretty raw, what it lacks in polish it makes up for in heart. And this is really what I’m after when I read short stories: a bit of honesty that comes from the gut. Among the writers you may know are Al Burian (Burn Collector) and Todd Dills (2nd Hand Reader, For Weeks under the Umbrella). Burian writes a story called “I’m Sorry I Fucked Your Girlfriend.” Like most of Burian’s stories, this one is about a guy who spends way too much time in his head while his body floats around semi-hipster circles. The title pretty much outlines the plot, and the story does turn out to be pretty funny. Dills does a “Week (+a Day) of Bombs,” which is basically about you and me (embodied in two other characters) dealing with the violent bastards who rule the world, trying to figure out a way to fight it without repeating the mistakes that have already been made, and getting drunk on cheap beer. I’ve read a good bit of Dills work, and this story is among his best. My three favorites in the book are the two by editor Mickey Hess and one by Beth Thomas. I know nothing about Beth Thomas, but she wrote this really heartfelt story about two young girls dealing with the death of their youngest sister. The story has a weird humor to it and does a good job of never directly addressing the sadness. These two elements combine to make the story complex and bittersweet. I do know stuff about Mickey Hess. I toured with him about a year and a half ago. I read his book, Big Wheel at the Cracker Factory. He’s one of the more talented underground writers publishing today. His two stories, “The Peace Lilly” and “Jimmy Frog’s Jumpsuit,” maintain his style of delivering intelligent, day-in-the-life stories with the timing of a stand-up comic. Other high points include stories about bumpjumping, little league, road trips, and so on. A very solid collection. Well worth the ten bucks. –Sean (Pitchfork Battalion c/o Mickey Hess, Indiana University Southeast, 4201 Grant Line Rd, New Albany, IN 47150)