I’m not a huge fan of contemporary short stories, even though I read and edit them weekly for publication in the Fictional Café ‘zine. My own reading and writing interest leans in more toward novels, with an occasional digression into flash fiction. However I do enjoy mystery short stories, a lot, and often delve into older literary short story anthologies, such as the Best of American Short Stories and Otto Penzler’s mystery compilations.
So it came as a surprise when, upon reading a review in the New York Times Book Review of a new short story collection, I was immediately seized with the desire to read the book. I leapt over to my computer and ordered a copy of Friday Black on Amazon, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was knocked out as I read the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut collection. The man’s soul sets fire to his prose.
Adjei-Brenyah is a natural writer of pure talent, a magus of the imagination who can, in a few words, transform the mundane into moments of deep insight and powerful significance. I continually found myself carried away by his not-so-very fictional portrayals of human behavior and his ability to transmute them into splendid works of fiction. Upon finishing one of his stories I would pause, sometimes for a few hours, but more often for days, to savor it, think about it. Often I would re-read passages as thought upon thought lashed at the edges of my mind, the breathtaking significance of his insights plunging deep into my awareness.
There wasn’t a single story in Friday Black that did not move me. Adjei-Brenyah skillfully clubbed me over the head in several of them; in others his intent was as subtle as a straight razor. As I read, I found myself seeing and feeling and experiencing perspectives on life quite unlike my own. I will not see or feel the same again, nor perhaps will I write as I have before.