from my bookshelf: short mean fiction by william dunlap


reading short mean fiction is like finding someone’s tattered spiral notebook on a bench; someone who may or may not have left it there intentionally for someone to find. it is composed of dunlap’s raw, mean sketches and short fictional vignettes, which capture life in the deep south in the form of sex, death, dark humor, religion, and violence. you never quite know where his story is taking you, and when it’s over, you’ll likely find yourself thumbing back through the pages, pen in hand and ready for underlining, wanting to delve deeper to understand dunlap’s hidden messages–because you can be sure they are there.


“He was not entirely trusted by this crowd, given his background and the fact that he was an unapologetic hyper-heterosexual. Lester had a child with the South African model Swalia Embrace and, by all accounts, was a doting father until the little girl began to talk and he realized she had nothing to say.”

“Altar boys were to disappear along with the Latin Mass, yet young men still found themselves vulnerable to their military superiors, tribal leaders, pedagogues, imams, and self-proclaimed holy men. They would grow up in turn to participate in the tradition of sexual exploitation of the weak and take their proper place in the religious and civic orders of the day.”

“So angry a scar could have been made by hooded captors wielding hot pokers during the Spanish Inquisition, in which her answer to any question would have been wrong and potentially fatal.”

“Every now and again something would be ejected from the maelstrom: a man running or crawling, looking over his shoulder; two men, one in blue, the other gray, helping each other with no obligation to cause or nation save their mutual humanity.”

“Phenylephrine HCI, the active numbing ingredient in Preparation H, began to fade, as did her anger and rage until Fran was left in the dark with a single, over-arching emotion she would come to know time and again in her encounters with men: a deep and abiding disappointment.”

“When I next called on the Grande Dame, I found by the door a stack of old books (are there any other kind?) to be donated to the Red Cross.”

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