Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance
Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance is a true story collection: each story is unique, standing alone, and yet all are connected by a common thread, in this case, the oddities of contemporary human experience that drive moments of life-altering choice.
In twelve stories, we glimpse these moments of choice flaring across the globe. In “Stone” (particularly reminiscent of Guy de Maupassant’s astonishing stories), a family of tourists in China and their slim case of jewels unwittingly seal a local’s fate. In “Powder,” a discontent London lawyer not-quite-accidentally becomes a famous drug dealer. In “Sunlight,” a blocked writer, in a flash of Italian inspiration, trades the true story and the long-term relationship for the best-selling book deal. In “White,” a Palestinian suicide bomber with second thoughts weighs the cost of his power and accepts his final punishment.
Matthew Kneale, author of the novels English Passengers and When We Were Romans (my review here), is also a master of the short form. There are no false cadences or improbable characters here. Each story is just long enough, precise without feeling clipped, evocative without excess detail. Together, they map the uncomfortable difficulties of being honest in a world where survival is its own reward.
I suspect at least some of these stories — “Stone” and “Powder” especially — might appeal to readers who aren’t big fans of the form. For the rest of us who love short stories, these are easy to read alongside other longer works or during spare minutes, but also offer a deeper appreciation if read as a collection. And for anyone learning to write stories, these would make good models to study.