REVIEW | 'THE LIGHTNING JAR' Author taps childhood for winning collection


Christian Felt invites readers to re-experience the wonder of childhood, complete with its imaginary dangers and adventures — many of which feel as real as the material world itself. “The Lightning Jar,” winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award administered by University of Iowa Press, is deeply imbued with the scattershot logic of childhood.

The first several stories center on Karl and his sister Amanda, two children with an elaborately imagined world they inhabit during the summer. It’s a haunted world, subject to change, and easily thrown into various kinds of chaos when visitors arrive. The children’s deepest desire seems to be for summer to continue forever.

While the Karl and Amanda stories are quirky and unpredictable, Felt is also skilled at crafting stories with a more formal structure. For example, “Snow on Snow” is a family history as well as an investigation into ancient musical forms. As the narrator explains the circumstances of his parents’ meeting and all that came after, he reflects on what can be known about the music of the Greeks. The threads of the story are carefully harmonized that is present without being obtrusive.


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