Charles Rafferty Is Not A Misanthrope. He Just Writes Like One.
Charles Rafferty does not have a particularly dark way of looking at life. His new book, a collection of flash fiction published as Somebody Who Knows Somebody, takes readers to a lot of dark, scary, and sometimes uncomfortable places, but Rafferty promises his overall outlook on life is good.
With the release of his 16th published title, the Newtown resident is, in fact, doing a lot of smiling these days.
Flash fiction, said Rafferty, “works best when the time frame is small: the pivotal moment, or the moment before the pivotal moment, or the moment just after the pivotal moment.
“I love the idea that you can trim away all the unnecessary narrative, and just give people the pertinent points.”
Each story within the new collection measures 1,000 words or less, and while many leave a reader going “Wait, what??!” — with one’s inner mind smiling at being caught again in a well-written web — Rafferty says it is just his dark sense of humor coming across when he writes.
“I’m a very happy person,” he said last week. “I don’t want to give the impression that I’m a misanthrope, but stories require tension, and it’s hard to write a story where everybody is happy and only good things befall them.
“That’s going to be boring,” he said. “I gravitate toward tension, because that’s going to grab attention.”
Rafferty’s stories do take hold of readers, who should make a point of slowing while reading the so-called “longer” stories in the new collection. Do not rush to the end. Savor each brief journey and its ending.
Take “Mary And Bernard: A Cautionary Tale,” for instance. The story runs a transitory course before concluding at a moment that will cause some to laugh out loud, and others to think “Ohhh, that’s too bad.”
With three sentences, “Neighbors” gives a very recognizable narrative.
As is the case with anthologies, Somebody Who Knows Somebody can be picked up and thumbed open to any story for a quick read. The stories, the author admits, are a hodgepodge of subjects.
For those who opt to read in order, however, Rafferty offers them an Easter egg.
“They are ordered as long-short, long-short,” he said of the order of story lengths. “There is often a tying interest between the two.”
The first two in the collection, “The Light Made Everything Harder To See” and “The Cellist,” are tied together by music.
“That’s really how I tried to organize the book, just having these odd pairings, that somehow interest on the same topic, or theme, or emotion.”
Rafferty expects readers will pick up on the theme in most cases, especially when they know they should be looking for one.
“In others it’s more tangential, and I will own up to that right away,” he added.
Local residents will get a kick out of passing references to in-town and nearby locations. The book does dabble in adult language, so be prepared for — but not taken aback by — that. Rafferty uses four-letter words because they fit their setting, not for their shock value.
All the stories in the new release have been published before. One is already an award winner. The 50 selections in Somebody Who Knows Somebody were picked by their author from a larger collection he has been crafting for eight years.
“In putting the book together, I had a lot of stories to discard,” he said. Rafferty did not set out to write 50 stories and then publish them.
“I like the ability to get rid” of stories held in lower esteem, he said last week.
When he is not writing flash fiction or working on another novel (like the one he plans to publish toward the end of the year), Charles Rafferty co-directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College and teaches in the Westport Writers’ Workshop. In recent months, while working from home during the pandemic, his train commute has been replaced with walks in the woods and writing sessions.
In honor of April being National Poetry Month, Rafferty’s publisher is co-hosting a special event. The Banyan Review, an online international journal, is co-hosting with Gold Wake Press “Poetry with Mauch, Rafferty, Rojas, Winter.” The free event is planned for Saturday, April 17. It will begin at 5 pm and last approximately one hour.
The event will feature readings by Matt Mauch, Andres Rojas, and Bess Winter, in addition to Rafferty.
To join, find the Banyan Review on Facebook and visit its Event page; find Gold Wake Press’s Facebook page and locate the April 4 post about the event; and/or go directly to this Zoom link: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/4079072511.