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Short Fiction
Leslee Becker

Six years after the publication of The Sincere Café, I've come to believe that the smartest thing I did with my book was to preface it with an epigraph I swiped from Chekhov, from his story, "About Love": It looked as though he wanted to tell some story. People who lead a solitary existence always have something in their hearts which they are eager to talk about.

As is the case with all writers, my work is best left to readers to arrive at their own conclusions and opinions about what it all means and how well or poorly it's crafted. When I read, I get caught up in the lives of the people in stories and novels. I fear for them, and I just know they're going to do something scary, stupid, and inevitable, and I root for them, and wish them the best.

So, I will tell you about myself, as if I were a fictional character, and it's necessary to know what she's been up to so that we can understand the appalling and exhilarating circumstances that brought her to the place where our story begins.

She has a cat, and she used the cat in a story that will serve as the title for a second book of stories-The Little Gentleman. The collection is a work-in-progress, and its title story involves the mysterious appearance of a golden cat on a woman's doorstep one day. Other stories in the collection involve mostly gay characters who mysteriously fall in and out of love with people and with houses, and who are given to little courtesies and big hopes.

Most mysterious of all, though, is the fact of a novel-Cold River City-which began as a story about the Adirondacks in the early 1960s, at the time of the construction of intercontinental ballistic missile bases. The novel is a fatty-over three hundred pages-and bursting with stuff about real events and mythical happenings. The title comes from the fabricated name the Adirondack Hermit (a real personage) gave to his various dwellings in the woods. The novel is about the stories we want to be true.

Fact: The author of this novel and of The Little Gentleman and The Sincere Café is ready for assisted-care living. She has been a teacher and a traveler. She went to Spain to take advantage of a writing residency at Fundacion Valparaiso, and she taught and lived in Wales, and went to Scotland for a writing fellowship at Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers. The Provincetown Fine Arts Center awarded her the Senior Fellowship in Literature, one of the benefits of old age, along with getting senior discounts at movies. In the UK such things are called concessions. "Will you be needing a concession?" she was asked when she attended her first movie in Wales. "You bet," she said.

So, our character traveled and wrote some stories and a novel, the stories landing berths in The New England Review, phoebe, Fourteen Hills, The Bellingham Review, and Georgia State Review.

She's wonderfully homebound now, thinking of epitaphs for her life, and epigraphs for her work, and not being able to separate the two, she chooses: "She Meant Well," or "Is That All There Is?" or something she always liked, something Eudora Welty said, "All Serious Daring Begins From Within."

For more information about Leslee Becker, look her up Colorado State University's website:

Titles by Leslee Becker
The Sincere Cafe


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