Ever since I was a wee little boy, I’ve been listening to the good people associated with Triopia School District go on and on about a man they seem to consider a demigod. This man writes speeches performed by high school students all over the nation; he writes and directs the high school musicals yearly, which never fail to sell out and really are quite excellent, if you don’t mind me saying so; he writes a syndicated newspaper column; and he has even had a few books published. Impressive, yes, but is he truly worthy of the numerous praise he routinely garners?
Well, before I read his latest book, I honestly don’t know how I would have answered that having not been terribly familiar with his work myself. However, having read his recently released collection of short stories, homerville, well, let’s just say I may be the new president of his fan club.
His name is Ken Bradbury, and I can’t recommend homerville highly enough.
Bradbury does everything with his writing that I only wish I could do. He creates remarkably believable characters that are preternaturally quirky in ways that you can’t help but fall in love with, no matter how crude and unpleasant some of them may be. His plots are not pretentiously complex, but I dare you to resist their charm and surprise. Bradbury’s dialogue is spot on for his characters and he executes their speech patterns perfectly.
Now comes the inexplicable. Bradbury is one of those rare authors that gives us just enough. What I mean by that is, he gives just enough dialogue, just enough character background, just enough description, just enough asides, he gives us everything in just the right amount. This is a terrible predicament for most authors, myself most definitely included. We are so guilty of either giving too much of these things or not enough. It is terribly unusual to have a writer who instinctually knows how to get it just right, who knows how to straddle that line flawlessly. He also possesses a trait difficult to come by-he knows when to end the short story. As simple as that may sound, it is easier said than done, and it is yet another aspect that he pulls off magnificently.
homerville is an interconnected collection of short stories about life in small town found in Central Illinois. If you grew up in a small town, you will lavish in total understanding of the nuances of the simple life. If you’ve never grown up in a little community, this book will prove remarkably accurate in what it’s like to know that everyone around you knows everything about you and you know everything about them. The residents of Bradbury’s homerville are as varied and complex as they are familiar, and I challenge you to resist falling in love with each and every one of them.
My particular favorite from homerville is entitled “The Piano Teacher.”