BRIEF ENCOUNTERS by Judith Kitchen


A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction
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Two distinguished writers/editors gather together flash nonfiction essays from both established and emerging writers.

In this volume, Kitchen (The Circus Train, 2014, etc.), who died in 2014, and Lenney (The Object Parade, 2014, etc.) continue the work they began 20 years ago when they first began editing anthologies of the newest and best in contemporary nonfiction. The works selected for inclusion are as delightfully varied in terms of tone, style, and subject matter as they are individually unique from each other. This diversity is signaled by the opening piece, James Richardson’s “Aphorisms & Ten-Second Essays,” an experimental reflection on the nature of storytelling that interweaves random truths about daily life. While the editors do not explicitly organize the pieces according to theme, they situate them in such a way so that, and as Lenney observes, “where one writer ends, another begins.” In “What I Hear,” for example, Martha Cooley reflects on her tinnitus and how the “instruments” she hears inside her head are ultimately playing me to myself.” In the essay that directly follows it, Geeta Kothari picks up the theme of listening. In her story, the perspective shifts to a woman who has spent her whole life doing as others have told her, even when what she has heard is superstition. Part of the vigor and liveliness that characterize this volume also derive from the fact that Kitchen and Lenney include the work of new writers like Josette Kubaszyk. In her lyrical essay “Swing,” she explores a young girl’s thoughts as she examines a swing and reflects on both its previous owner and her own experiences “swooping forward, falling back, humming the rhythm of the wind.” Refreshing and often unexpected, the stories in this collection—which run the gamut from memoir to critique to meditation and more—offer insights into experiences that, as they challenge readers’ perceptions of the world, also celebrate the pain, joy, and wonder of being human.

A vibrant and expansive anthology.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 2025
ISBN: 978-0-393-35099-9
Page count: 356pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2015


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