A Simplified Map of the Real World
By Stevan Allred
Book designer Gigi Little, author Stevan Allred, and publisher Laura Stanfill of Forest Avenue Press.
"A Simplified Map of the Real World is a collection of 15 linked short stories that take place in Renata, Oregon and stretch through time and across generations. Renata is a fictional town that feels real because the characters are our families, our neighbors, our friends, even us." --Edee Lemonnier, at readingandwritingcafe
Fifteen linked stories chart a true course through the lives of families, farmers, loggers, former classmates, and the occasional stripper. In the richly imagined town of Renata, Oregon, a man watches his neighbor’s big-screen TV through binoculars. An errant son paints himself silver. Mysterious electrical humming emanates from an enormous barn. A secret abortion from three decades ago gets a public airing. In A Simplified Map of the Real World, intimate boundaries are loosened by divorce and death in a rural community where even an old pickle crock has an unsettling history—and high above the strife and the hope and the often hilarious, geese seek the perfect tailwind. Stevan Allred’s stunning debut deftly navigates the stubborn geography of the human heart.
A Simplified Map of the Real World launches Forest Avenue Press’ fiction catalog. Stevan, who co-teaches creative writing at the Pinewood Table with Joanna Rose, is the editor of the hand-lettered zine Dixon Ticonderoga. His fiction and essays have been widely published in literary journals. The book features illustrations by Laurie Paus, a bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, as well as a hand-drawn Faulknerian map and “story trees” that diagram the connections between the characters.
Book clubs interested in choosing A Simplified Map of the Real World are welcome to contact us to schedule Stevan to attend their meeting about the book. Scheduling will be done on a first come, first served basis, with preference for clubs in the Portland metro area. He is also willing to attend meetings in other places through Skype.
"These are some of the best stories by anyone, anywhere, bar none. If they're not, you can hit me in the face" --Scott Sparling, author of Wire to Wire
“Funny, sensual, piercing, honest, witty, and a braided woven webbed stitch of stories and people unlike anything I ever read. It catches something deep and true about the brave and nutty shaggy defiant grace of this place. Fun to read and funner to recommend.” -- Brian Doyle, author of Mink River
“Death and high jinks, love and rage—the ordinary doings of a small town are not so simple. Stevan Allred has clear vision and he’s a loving and joyful teller of tales. In his hands, these voices are angry, foolish, wise, heartbroken, and true.” – Joanna Rose, author of Little Miss Strange
“Stevan Allred’s A Simplified Map of the Real World is on my short list of truly hard core Oregon literature. Whether you laugh or feel sad or want to shout “amen” at Allred’s political swipes, you will be engaged by this wildly enjoyable collection.” – Matt Love, Nestucca Spit Press
“Stevan Allred’s characters are delightfully wrong-headed. They make questionable choices—sometimes terrible ones—and get themselves into all kinds of trouble. But the worse their mistakes, the more I care for them, because beyond their difficulties what Allred gives them is the essential dignity of longing. No matter how misguided, all strive toward some ideal, and no matter what mess they make of their circumstances, they end up more alive for having given themselves over to desire. To read their stories is to journey through passions that transcend the confinements of small town life—and it’s a journey that’s by turns funny, surprising, and heartbreaking.”
– Scott Nadelson, author of The Next Scott Nadelson
“You don’t need to be from a small Oregon town to recognize Stevan Allred’s characters. They are your mother, your father, your cousin Cathy. And probably more than you’d like to admit, they even feel a bit like you. A Simplified Map of the Real World is a highly-skilled collection of interwoven stories, surprising in its various styles and voices. But the real surprise is how close Stevan Allred gets to the beating heart of what it means to be human. Petty, profane, sacred, scared, hilarious. We’re all in this book. And that’s quite a triumph.”
- Tom Spanbauer, author of The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon
“Much like being ambushed by a sneaker wave, I simply surrendered to the futile and claustrophobic circumstances Allred forces the community of Renata to endure in this linked collection. As human beings we all know there are two sides—or multiple ones—to every story, and as readers, it’s pure indulgence to experience Allred’s deft ability to shift between various points of view to give us a 360-degree perspective of the intertwining lives of his characters as they meet head-on their spectrum of woes, each more heartbreaking than the last.”
– Polly Dugan, author of So Much a Part of You
“I don’t know how he works his magic–probably naked at the typewriter or some other trick to get so much humanity and humility on the page–but Stevan has built a world full of beautiful and messy people living beautiful and messy lives. These stories are great on their own, and even stronger together. You’ll feel like you know these people and this place better than you know your own people and place. You should be ashamed of yourself for not having read this book yet!”
– Yuvi Zalkow, author of A Brilliant Novel in the Works