Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Mono Lake: Stories," by Martha Clark Cummings

I know Martha Clark Cummings through professional conferences; she also contributed a wonderful chapter to an academic book I co-edited a few years ago. Over the years, she has become a friend as well. Besides being a great teacher and scholar, she is a gifted creative writer, especially of short stories. I have seen a couple of her recent stories and liked them very much, but only last month did I order and read her earlier collection of short fiction, “Mono Lake: Stories” (Rowbarge Press, 1995). These engrossing stories depict characters, usually lesbian, in harsh situations. Most of them are set in remote, weatherbeaten, barely populated places such as Mono Lake. There is a beaten-down, even somewhat grim feeling to most of the stories. But there is also so much humanity in the midst of those difficult settings, and there are many hints of hope and possibility throughout. The situations and plots are compelling, as are the characters. There is much for us to learn from the stories, about – among other things – sexual identity and social class. There is a restrained lyricism in the style, a style that eschews prettiness for grit and heart. It is a pleasure for me to rediscover what I already knew: that Martha is a fine writer.


  1. Thanks so much for the recommendation! Now that I've read the collection I can recommend it too. Martha's voice is so fresh and subtle with moments of unexpected humor. I particularly liked "Made to Measure" for its imagery and intimacy. But it's hard to choose a favorite because they're all good.

    1. So glad you have read this book too, Sarah, and also liked and recommend it.


Site Meter