Whatever Used to Grow Around Here by Lauren Belski is a collection of nine short stories that consider the experiences that resonate in the lives of American youth who strive to live meaningfully during times threatening to negate and dissolve.
These stories come to light against an America littered with disconcerting history and an ecology fettered to its eroding future. They bring back the tensions, desires, anxieties, liberties and passions that are our very undoing; but Belski gives us hope in the end as she confirms and explores our human connections. In their places, pieces and moments, these stories are everybody’s to remember.
Be they about a disgruntled poet stuck in a traffic jam out in the middle of nowhere, or a state-champion cross-country runner who decides at a moment’s notice to book it out of town, Lauren Belski’s stories draw the reader into their protagonists’ identities through prose that moves to the patterns of contemporary speech and plots that linger in definitive moments of love and self-discovery. This creates a reading experience that is as open to analysis as it is refreshingly uncontrived. Belski is not afraid of writing in whatever mode her story calls for, and the result is a fiction of unmitigated immediacy and profound honesty.
From “Fat Man’s Coat”
“Oh please,” I told him. “I won’t be able to feel anything through that fat man’s coat.”
“This coat?!” he asked, astonished, as if the coat could hear and was offended. “This coat can’t contain me!”
His declaration echoed down the empty street. By far, he was the strongest man on the block.
“Come on!” he said, waving me forward then settling back into a He-Man pose.
“Fine,” I said, “But I’m not going to feel anything.”
I took a step toward him, taking my hands out of my pockets and patting them up and down his sandpapery sleeves like an airport security guard, every now and again pressing up against a solid form of life: a bicep, the tendons of a shoulder. Then I got a little bolder.
Lauren Belski‘s work has been published or is forthcoming in StoryQuarterly, Matter Journal, The Trout Family Almanac, and other delightful places. A former New York City Teaching Fellow and AmeriCorps Volunteer on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, she is now an instructor of English at Brooklyn College where she earned her MFA. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Brian Russ.
The Crumpled Press was established in 2005. Our books are all hand sewn We publish original work by new authors and provide a space for established writers to say something new. We aim to create an audience for good writing instead of packaging writing for a target audience. We perish to publish.