Chicago Heat and Other Stories by Clarence Major
Green Writers Press, 2016; 273 pp
Reviewed by Juliana Amir


Short stories offer the chance to immerse yourself in a scene with characters you’ve not met, but feel like you know, and then walk away satisfied when your own life inevitably requires your presence.

By the end of Clarence Major’s chapters, I could believe I knew Edward, Sandra, or Tommy. The problem was their situations didn’t demand my imagination, and their problems didn’t stir my concern.

Of course one feels for a boy like Tommy, trying to protect his mother when she goes out on a date, but I wanted my expectations subverted, or my fears to unfurl. To me, too many of these chapters ended before they reached their climax.

It’s not to say Chicago Heat isn’t a good book, but its greatness was lost on me. Major uses a simplicity of prose that enamored some, and yet I found the writing mechanical. He has a command of small details that brings scenes to life like eating spaghetti with olive oil or buying a pipe with a monk’s face, but I was longing for these characters to act, and mostly they wandered, thought, and felt.