This week’s other featured books, “Finding Bluefield,” by Elan Barnehama and “Earth as It Is in Heaven,” by Karl Elder, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Author’s page.
THE BOOK: Wanderers.
PUBLISHED IN: 2012.
THE AUTHOR: Edward Belfar.
THE EDITOR: Ms. Kimberly Verhines is the director of Stephen F. Austin State University Press. There was no single editor assigned to work with me, though staff there did some minor copyediting.
THE PUBLISHER: Stephen F. Austin State University Press.
SUMMARY: Wanderers is a collection of fifteen short stories. Two—“Roman Honeymoon” and “Visitations”—which depict a marriage at its beginning and end stages, are linked directly, while the rest stand independently of one another. Others are tied together thematically and by setting. Many of the stories feature characters coping as best they can with loss and dislocation and searching for redemption and love. Five of them are set in Kenya.
THE BACK STORY: Wanderers does not have an overarching back story. Instead, it has fifteen of them. The sources vary, with some stories having their origins in direct observations, experiences, or events that I have read about, while others are entirely made up. To cite one example, “Ashes” germinated from an article I read about two research psychologists who had such a bitter rivalry that one of them requested in his will that he be cremated and have his ashes thrown in the face of the other. I asked myself, “What sort of person would do a thing like that?” A picture of such a person began to take shape in my mind, and then I began to hear her voice and to populate her world.
I wrote the stories over a period of several years, mostly in the early and mid-2000s, and had all of them published individually in various literary journals before I collected them into one volume. I submitted the collection as my entry in the Stephen F. Austin State University Press fiction contest in 2012. It was chosen as a finalist and subsequently published.
WHY THIS TITLE?: Though, as I have noted, all but two of the stories can stand alone, I chose Wanderers as the title because I thought it reflected a certain thematic unity. Most all the protagonists are wanderers in one way or another, trying to navigate their way through geographical and emotional terrain that they sometimes find unrecognizable.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The collection should appeal to readers who enjoy literary short fiction. I believe that readers will find the stories by turns poignant and funny.
Though set in a variety of locales, the stories explore experiences and emotions common to all. “A View of the Fireworks” depicts a day in the life of man overcome by grief following the death of his daughter. Stories such as “Matters of the Heart” and the title story, “Wanderers,” feature characters trying to come to terms with aging and increasing frailty. Some of the stories set in Kenya explore loss of a different sort: that of a remembered home. In “The Ruined House” and “Departure,” the protagonists return, after long absences, to a Kenya they no longer recognize.
Despite the sometimes grim circumstances in which the characters find themselves, the tone of the collection varies. As in real life, humor exists alongside pathos. Some of the stories have a fairly light tone and feature elements of the absurd. For example, in “The Rule of Law,” which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a jaded lawyer recalls a malpractice case in which he defended a fake New Age healer in a suit initiated by a sleazy patient feigning injury.
“Residing inside the pages of Edward Belfar’s short story collection are a series of wanderers who find themselves far from home both geographically and emotionally. Some of them travel halfway across the world while others are literally trapped within themselves, but all of them are searching for a way back into the feeling of home.
“Belfar does a fantastic job of fleshing out his characters and their backgrounds. Without using too many words, he is able to convey complicated relationships and emotions. He delves into his characters’ pasts — their secrets, longings, and injuries — while still maintaining forward momentum in a fairly compact medium.
“I usually read short story collections in sips, reading a few stories here and there but I gulped this one down.
–Leah Mosher, Books Speak Volumes blog
“The stories in Wanderers have their own bleak beauty, and I would definitely recommend this collection, especially to fans of Richard Yates. This is a writer whose future works I will follow with interest.
–Lisa Almeda Summer, Bibliohphiliac blog
“To me, a great short story is one that makes you uncomfortable. One that puts you in a living room, hospital room or a crowded train where you know you aren’t supposed to be. That’s how Wanderers by Edward Belfar made me feel. Each story is descriptive and imaginative, yet real and often very raw. In most of the stories, Belfar seems to place the emotional issues at hand buried under the text so the reader has to sort them out and discover why the story invokes a certain emotion. In some stories, a quick second read unwraps a new layer and made me pick up on something completely missed on first read.”
–Laura Cannavino, Luxury Reading blog
AUTHOR PROFILE: I grew up in New York City and on Long Island and now live in Maryland with my wife, Kathleen, to whom Wanderers is dedicated, and a very strong-willed Corgi named Pepin. I work as a writer and editor. Wanderers is my first book. My fiction has appeared in Shenandoah, Tampa Review, Confrontation, Natural Bridge, and numerous other literary magazines. My short story “Errors,” which is featured in Wanderers, was chosen as the winning entry in the Sport Literature Association’s 2008 fiction competition.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: As noted above, five of the fifteen stories are set in Kenya. My wife grew up there, and we have made several trips back to visit family and friends and to do the things that tourists do. Captivated by both the beauty of the country and the hospitality of the people I met, I immediately fell in love with Kenya.
At the same time, because I had an opportunity to see a side of Kenya that tourists typically do not, I found my first visit there in particular to be jarring in many respects. As do many developing countries, Kenya has extremes of wealth and poverty. Because crime is so prevalent in Nairobi and other cities, those who can afford decent housing live behind walls with armed security guards posted at the gates. In many places, the infrastructure is substandard. Power outages and water cutoffs were frequent occurrences in Nairobi when I was there. Many of the roads were barely passable, and the air was filled with soot. Corruption pervaded everyday life. I heard many stories of bribe-seeking police and customs officials.
That first visit occurred during the final months of the twenty-four-year presidency of Daniel arap Moi, a corrupt autocrat who at one point employed former Trump campaign chairman and current felon Paul Manifort to lobby for him and burnish his image in the West. When Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, my wife lamented, “What has become of my adopted country?” I replied that it had become her old country. Regrettably, that remark does not seem quite as hyperbolic as it did then.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: The link below will take you to the version of “Errors” as it originally appeared in the journal Aethlon, after being chosen as the Sport Literature Association’s 2008 fiction competition winner. The version that appears in Wanderers is slightly modified.
LOCAL OUTLETS: The book is currently available only online.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Texas A&M University Press. PRICE: The full retail price is $16.95, but the book can be purchased for less through third-party sellers on Amazon.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: