Stiff (Made in Michigan Writers) (Paperback)
Wayne State University Press, 9780814345887, 176pp.
Publication Date: November 5, 2018
Steve Hughes wrote Stiff with an audience in mind. As creator of The Good Tyme Writers Buffet-a literary series/potluck which runs out of a neighborhood art space-Hughes offers up each story in the collection like a dish to be passed. Just as each Buffet was thematically tied to a gallery show, so is each story in Stiff. The book serves as a kind of photo album of moments when artists were working separately and collaboratively in the same space. The process of eating, drinking, making, and working together (and apart) is what Hughes says is the central theme of the collection: finding home.
In Hughes's stories, home is not just a physical structure where one arranges their stuff but the place where one most belongs. Finding that place can be a lifelong struggle. In "Ripening," a man and woman in an illicit affair witness their genitals leave their bodies for a rendezous. In "I Don't Feel Sorry for Mrs. Miller," a paperboy becomes "friendly" with one of his customers. In "Dexter's Song," a drug-addicted saxophone player meets a bored suburban woman who gives him her ex-boyfriend's sax, which causes him to play better than ever. The stories in Stiff are odd and otherworldly, with themes ranging from cowboys to "burn" to "girlfriend material" to summer. And yet, at the end of the day, the characters in these stories are all just looking for a place to hang their hats and feel whole again.
Readers of contemporary fiction will enjoy this outrageous and evocative ensemble of stories.