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If Lions Could Speak and Other Stories

This volume collects an assortment of Paul Park’s early short stories, written between 1983 and 2002. Park is primarily a novelist, and an excellent one, and his short fiction affects me as well as his work in longer forms.

The Tourist is the first Park story I read. I found it online before I went to Clarion, and enjoyed it; though, like most of Park’s work, the story made me sad for the broken world and the sympathetic sad people who live in it. In this story, Park plays with time travel and personal loss; he asks, “What if cosmological time ran backward to our personal sense of it?” and “Will you forgive me, Suzanne?” Narrated in his characteristically soft-spoken, at times melancholy and self-referential, one-off first person.

He often casts this doppelganger voice, though the character differs from story to story&mdashthe various Paul Parks, who aren’t the physical writer, but who are sometimes also writers on their own, sometimes referring to fictional versions of the physical Paul Park’s other stories, sometimes reimagining their alternate universe spouses having conflicts in a once more removed universe. This could be confusing, but in the end I don’t think the myriad Paul Parks should distress anyone: in an interview with The SF Site, Park says: “It’s just that we all share the same name—a vexing coincidence, of course, but ultimately trivial.” And of course the other Paul Parks are Paul Park, but no more significantly than any other character he writes is Paul Park.

There was no story in this collection I disliked, which is a feat; the stories I liked and remember best are: If Lions Could Speak, The Breakthrough, Tachycardia, The Lost Sepulcher of Huascar Capac.

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