Reading literature increases our empathy and offers insights into the world through the eyes of the author. Short stories, memoirs, and poetry can often express what would remain silent otherwise and the shared experience can touch the lives of readers around the world in ways the author might not even have expected.
Short stories are a wonderful way to get your literary fix when you feel like you have no time to invest in longer works of fiction. Writers eager to pen the Great American novel are often told to begin by writing short stories, but as Stephen King noted, “A short story is a different thing altogether – a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.” Kinda Sorta American Dream (Tailwinds Press, 2015) by Greek-American author Steve Karas is his debut collection.
Among the stories, an unemployed autoworker finds himself at an elite seminar for aspiring Santa Clauses; and an IT specialist eagerly awaits the Mayan apocalypse in his parents’ basement as his father descends into dementia. As noted in the book’s description, “Through fourteen curiously ambivalent studies, Karas methodically examines and reconfigures the core archetypes—dot-com entrepreneurs, hard-striving immigrants, obsessive diner owners—that haunt and dominate the American psyche. Their narratives, set against a dizzying panorama that stretches from the ruins of post-2008 Detroit to the desperate paradise of suburban Florida, evoke the familiar American mythology of army bases, Manhattan high-rises, and Midwestern video stores. Yet Karas’ masterful, minimalist portraits are ambiguous and tinged with uncertainty.”
The characters are winners, losers, and hopeless visionaries on a quest to create disruption in their lives, all while doubting if change is even possible.
Steve Karas (his pseudonym) lives in Chicago with his wife and two kids. His stories have also appeared in the short-fiction anthologies Friend.Follow.Text. #storiesFromLivingOnline (Enfield & Wizenty, 2013) and Bully (KY Story, 2015), as well as literary journals like Necessary Fiction, jmww, Hobart, WhiskeyPaper, and Little Fiction. Kinda Sorta American Dream and Karas’ other works are available online. His website is steve-karas.com.
The Journey: From Pyrgos to the Fed and from Wall Street to Starting Eurobank by Dionysios S. Kotsonis is a memoir that brings dramatic moments in history to life. Beginning in pre-war Pyrgos where he was born in 1930 through to a successful shipping career, Kotsonis highlights the experiences that made his life so unique. From carefree childhood summers spent at his family’s Pyrgos farm to his high school years at Athens College, his studies in New York City leading to a teaching career and his appointment as a research economist at the United States Federal Reserve Bank.
During the Kennedy years, Kotsonis was in Washington, appointed as a consultant to the president’s economic advisory committee. He then spent time working on Wall Street until he returned to Greece to take on the leadership in Andreadis’ Investment Bank and was followed by his involvement in the establishment of Latsis’ Euroinvestment Bank, now the Eurobank.
Dramatic historical events in Greece, including the German Occupation, the Decemvriana clash of 1944, the Civil War, and the Metapolitefsi following the junta, as well as episodes in U.S. history, including McCarthyism, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Vietnam War, are recounted. The author’s wit and self-deprecation, keeps things in perspective. The book is available online at:
For those interested in adding some poetry to their list, The Complete Poems of Constantine Cavafy, translated by Daniel Mendelsohn, is a good choice in honor of Cavafy’s birthday on April 29. Born in Alexandria in 1863 to parents who both hailed from Constantinople, Cavafy was proud of his heritage and his illustrious ancestors. According to his biography, his Phanariote great-grandfather Peter Cavafy (1740-1804) was Secretary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, while his Phanariote great-great-grandfather John Cavafy (1701-1762) was Governor of Jassium, as was his great-grandfather Michael Scarlato Pantzo (brother of Meletius, Patriarch of Alexandria), while his great-great-great-grandfather Theodosius Photiades (brother of Cyril, Bishop of Caesarea Philippi) was an Official of the Ottoman Government. Cavafy’s cosmopolitan family roots extended from Constantinople to London (via Alexandria, Trebizond, Chios, Trieste, Venice, and Vienna), and he was the youngest of seven brothers (two elder siblings, a boy and the sole girl, died in infancy). More information about Cavafy and his work is available online at www.cavafy.com.