Chad Simpson can vividly paint his characters’ emotional lives with just a few brush strokes. His new short story collection, “Tell Everyone I Said Hi,” packs 18 stories into just 124 pages, and some of the briefest are also the most powerful. Taken as a whole, the book is a remarkable accomplishment.
It is the winner of the 2012 John Simmons Short Fiction Award, presented by University of Iowa Press and selected this year by author Jim Shepard.
Simpson’s stories head straight for the reader’s heart. Here, for example, is the opening of “The First Night Game at Wrigley”:
“This is the story I would tell my son about the night he was conceived.
“If his mother and I had gotten married and were still together and could joyfully reminisce about this specific time and night in our lives.
“If he had ever been born.”
Simpson works hard to avoid easy, clichéd metaphors for emotion, and he sidesteps the maudlin, as well. He is willing to experiment with form and narrative style to achieve the effect he seeks. In “Let x,” he structures a playground encounter between a boy and a girl as an equation: “Let x equal the moment just after he tells her he’s starting a club for people who know something about computers.” The story delineates the mathematics of young heartbreak in two pages.
With stories so short and so good, it can be tempting to race through “Tell Everyone I Said Hi.” But this book rewards careful, quiet reading. It is a collection to be savored.