Soft Skull Press 2016
John Jodzio, oft and rightly compared to George Saunders, is lauded by Chuck Klosterman as “the best best kind of modern fiction writer: a thematic traditionalist who feels totally new.” It’s no wonder this hilarious and profound Minneapolis writer has cultivated a cult following who flock to his reading events. His most recent collection Knock Out: Stories (Soft Skull Press, 2016) features a cast of complex, compelling, and strange characters (an alcoholic bed and breakfast owner, a recovering meth addict and a kidnapped tiger, an agoraphobic mother raising her baby completely indoors, a former soap opera star paralyzed in a human cannon ball stunt gone bad, and a son trying to keep the opium den family business afloat– just to name a few) who ultimately reveal their own raw humanity, as well as our shared emotional experience without the baggage of sentimentality. Jodzio walks a tightrope between comedic gold and hitting the sweet spot of crack-your-ribcage-open-and-shatter-your-heart-like-a-geode. These artfully crafted stories are difficult to put down, and Jodzio’s plotting and pacing are so spot on that it’s a deceptively quick read. It’s only on rereading that we see how hard each sentence is working to reveal the world anew to us as readers.
Barbara Harroun is an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois University. Her work can be found at Fiction Southeast, Watershed Review, Rappahannock Review and Iron Horse Literary Review, among others. She can be found at barbaraharroun.com.