Superior Fiction

One of the pleasures of fiction is the opportunity that novels, short stories, and epic poems give us to escape from our own everyday world into an alien world of gods and heroes (as in the Iliad) or knights and wizards (Tennyson’s Idylls), English villagers (in Hardy’s Wessex), or Mississippi rednecks and redskins (of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County).  A large part of Tolkien’s popularity derives from his success in sustaining the fiction of the parallel world of Middle Earth.  In a smaller, quieter way, more reminiscent of Hardy than of Faulkner or Tolkien, Anthony Bukoski has sustained the fiction of an equally fantastic place, the fictional city of Superior, Wisconsin, a derelict railhead at the head of Lake Superior.

In most of his stories, Bukoski has only hinted at the urban glamour of central Superior—the endless succession of bars on Tower Avenue and the mysteries of Globe News, and he never so much as peers into the stately homes of bankers and physicians.  Bukoski’s village is the Polish section of the East End: the massive (though abandoned) ore docks and grain elevator; the Warsaw Tavern and the Polish Club.  Bukoski laid the foundation for this imaginary world in his earlier collections, Children of Strangers and Polonaise, where the premise must have strained some readers’ imaginations.  Can there really be...

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