All the People: Very Short Stories by Stephanie Barber
Ink Press Productions, 2015
Intimate, angry, dangerous, lyric, gorgeous, fast, deep, freaky funny, wise, undone, undoing—I could go on forever about Stephanie Barber’s new and wondrous All the People.
In Florida, Barber writes “It is all day here every day,” and that made me think about how exquisitely All the People captures the tedious all-day-ness of living alongside the explosive magic and strange trap doors that life is forever springing upon us—the chance to be a goat boy, say, or to wonder obsessively about rabbit teeth. In these brief portraits, distinctive characters vividly emerge, like Olive Shore, who is, much to the narrator’s chagrin, the “the talk of the village” after an accident: “Sympathy is part of it I guess and also that whole ‘brink of death’ thing is big here, of course but I don’t know, I think it’s something else. Something got softer in her, lighter.”
All the People is a work that resists easy categorization, and certainly Barber is stretching and complicating the form of the micro-story or the flash fiction or whatever we want to call it here; she is capturing that form and making it wholly her own. I could try out comparisons—Deb Olin Unferth meets Lydia Davis, say—but Stephanie Barber continues to prove herself as a true original.
Laura van den Berg is the author of the novel Find Me and the story collections What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and The Isle of Youth, which won the Bard Fiction Prize, the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Jeannette Haien Ballard Writer’s Prize