“Meissner’s stories are expressions of the complex connections between ourselves and parents. They say what we all should say but usually can’t. In that way they serve literature’s best purpose.” —Richard Ford
“Meissner has the storyteller’s gift for creating living characters, living speech, living emotions, living drama. He knows his small towns, but beyond that, he knows the workings of the human heart.” —Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried and July, July
“A storyteller with remarkable gifts.” —Kurt Vonnegut
In his second short story collection, Bill Meissner explores the consciousness of Cosmos, U.S.A, a small town that is anything but ordinary. Though it has its share of residents intent on keeping the world on an even keel, Cosmos is blessed with a healthy number of eccentrics who are chasing their dreams, idiosyncratic as they may be, or struggling to distinguish themselves as individuals.
We meet Duane, hoping to build a replica of Stonehenge with salvaged cars; Norm, the local weatherman, longing to be the first person to film the inside of a tornado; Elmo, a groundskeeper, seeking perfection on his baseball field; and Dolores—convinced Elvis is still alive—attempting to overcome the pain of her husband’s desertion.
Threaded through the collection are poignant childhood memories told through the voice of Skip Carrigan, a native son, who left and returned years later. Skip’s stories chronicle a sometimes tender, sometimes stormy relationship with his father; through Skip’s mature perspective, Meissner artfully comments on the growth and change of America itself during recent decades.
The residents of Cosmos orbit the town like planets, some of them pulling away, others moving ever closer to its center. Cosmos, though a small Midwestern town, contains universal characters, each of them struggling to find order, love, and identity amid the chaos of their lives.
“It’s not easy to write believable small-town eccentrics, to steer clear of framing them as one-note. Meissner . . . avoids this trap. The Road to Cosmos recalls Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio . . . but the people of Cosmos are not as darkly troubled as their predecessors. Meissner shades his work with a lighter palette. . . . The stories are thick with atmosphere. Reading them, it’s clear that Meissner, who has also published four books of poetry, is doing what poets do so well—using fewer words, better words, to tell a whole and vivid tale.” — Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Meissner is at his best when he is boring down to the center of . . . human existence. . . . The folks of Cosmos come alive for the reader, and sometimes the frailties rise to the surface, allowing reflection, and then in the next moment, he is recasting dialogue that each of us has uttered bits and pieces of in our lifetimes that aims for the heart and hits its mark. . . .” — www.newamericanreader.com
“Anyone who grew up in 50s and 60s will be able to identify their high school, girlfriend, parents and town characters in the pages of this 192-page collection. Meissner’s words dance across the tapestry of small town life, stomping with teen angst, tearing across the pages of demolition derby dreams and pirouetting mid-story with unexpected turns. . . Meissner has stories to tell and the literary dexterity to tell them through well-crafted characters who could, for all intents and purposes, be living right next door to you or me.” — New American Reader
Included in University Press Books Selected for Public and Secondary School Libraries for 2007 by the American Library Association