Stevan Allred's linked short story collection about the complicated, flawed folks in the fictional rural town of Renata, Oregon, is smart, funny, and heartbreaking. With its people and its peculiarities, Renata is a place I found hard to leave after the last page. Recommended By Gigi L., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Fifteen linked stories chart a true course through the lives of families, farmers, loggers, former classmates, and the occasional stripper. In the richly imagined town of Renata, Oregon, a man watches his neighbor's big-screen TV through binoculars. An errant son paints himself silver. Mysterious electrical humming emanates from an enormous barn. A secret abortion from three decades ago gets a public airing.
In A Simplified Map of the Real World, intimate boundaries are loosened by divorce and death in a rural community where even an old pickle crock has an unsettling history — and high above the strife and the hope and the often hilarious, geese seek the perfect tailwind. Stevan Allred's stunning debut deftly navigates the stubborn geography of the human heart.
"Death and high jinks, love and rage — the ordinary doings of a small town are not so simple. Stevan Allred has clear vision and he's a loving and joyful teller of tales. In his hands, these voices are angry, foolish, wise, heartbroken, and true."
Joanna Rose, author of Little Miss Strange
"Stevan Allred's A Simplified Map of the Real World is on my short list of truly hard core Oregon literature. Whether you laugh or feel sad or want to shout 'amen' at Allred's political swipes, you will be engaged by this wildly enjoyable collection."
Matt Love, Nestucca Spit Press
"Funny, sensual, piercing, honest, witty, and a braided woven webbed stitch of stories and people, unlike anything I ever read. It catches something deep and true about the brave and nutty, shaggy defiant grace of this place. Fun to read and funner to recommend."
Brian Doyle, author of Mink River
"Stevan Allred's characters are delightfully wrong-headed. They make questionable choices — sometimes terrible ones — and get themselves into all kinds of trouble. But the worse their mistakes, the more I care for them, because beyond their difficulties what Allred gives them is the essential dignity of longing. No matter how misguided, all strive toward some ideal, and no matter what mess they make of their circumstances, they end up more alive for having given themselves over to desire. To read their stories is to journey through passions that transcend the confinements of small town life — and it's a journey that's by turns funny, surprising, and heartbreaking."
Scott Nadelson, author of The Next Scott Nadelson
"You don't need to be from a small Oregon town to recognize Stevan Allred's characters. They are your mother, your father, your cousin Cathy. And probably more than you'd like to admit, they even feel a bit like you. A Simplified Map of the Real World is a highly-skilled collection of interwoven stories, surprising in its various styles and voices. But the real surprise is how close Stevan Allred gets to the beating heart of what it means to be human. Petty, profane, sacred, scared, hilarious. We're all in this book. And that's quite a triumph."
Tom Spanbauer, author of The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon
About the Author
Author Stevan Allred
lives and writes in a house in the woods halfway between Fisher's Mill and Viola, in rural Clackamas County, outside of Portland, Oregon. He is the editor of Dixon Ticonderoga
, a zine that explores the intimate relationship between divorce and pencils. He teaches writing at the Pinewood Table.
Illustrator Laurie Paus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Washington. Over the years she has taken drawing and painting classes from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and Oregon College of Arts and Crafts, and recently, she has been studying sculpture at The Gage Academy of Art. She lives on the shores of Lake Union and works as a bookseller at The Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle.
Table of Contents
His Ticky Little Mind / 3
In the Ditch / 21
What Good a Divorce Is / 37
The Idjit's Guide to Intuitive Mastery of Newtonian Physics / 49
The Painted Man / 65
Sink Like a Steamroller, Fly Like a Brick / 95
To Walk Where She Pleases / 115
As Men Will Do Unto the Least Among Us / 123
A Simplified Map of the Real World / 143
Vortex / 165
Trish the Freaking Dish / 191
Conflations of a Hard-Headed Yankee / 205
Doubling Down / 221
On Formal Occasions, Hummingbirds / 243
A Gentleman, Under These Circumstances, Has No Idea / 253
Acknowledgments / 269
Mr. Allred's Fairly Accurate Map of the Kalish and Environs, from Renata, Westward / 272
Story Trees / 274
Reading Group Questions / 279