The Sadness of Whirlwinds by Jim Peterson
The Sadness of Whirlwinds explores the world as we know it but tinged with magical possibilities that challenge our expectations. A small dog leads a man into the backyard of a blind woman who has drawn him forth from a forgotten past. A man becomes trapped between walls in his favorite restaurant. The author of a book of questions meets the author of a book that has the answers. An encounter with Mr. Death offers insights into Mrs. Birth. A woman unhappy with her life enters into an exploration of the world of whirlwinds. A man decides he must leave his dog lying beside him on the couch in order to enter the Inward City. A man travels to the remote and eccentric country of Fallada and meets the beautiful, bewildering woman known as Keeva. A woman must break through the boundaries of her comfortable grief in order to face an irascible man and unravel the mystery of her stolen dog. These and other explorations into the unknown make up the character of this new collection by Jim Peterson. Mysterious and challenging, these tales invite readers to their own inquiries into the nature of reality.
The Sadness of Whirlwinds is a fantastic book of fictions. At times magical and humorous, sad and heartbreaking, compelling and dramatic—Jim Peterson’s writing celebrates what James Dickey once called “the creative possibilities of the lie.” Peterson dares to write the impossible. His characters, and their desires, are so immediate and alive that I believe anything they imagine or experience, no matter how extraordinary. A great pleasure in these stories is found in Peterson’s poetic eye and lyrical writing: how he invents transformation in the briefest of spaces. The short, flash-like fictions are wonderfully intimate and impactful. The structure Peterson has crafted is organic and full of energy, each section reading like its own brief book or movement in music, as memory and conflicts begin to intertwine across characters and stories. And though there is an ennui characters can’t quite perceive in these stories, at the heart of Peterson’s writing is a compassion and joy in experiencing, as whirlwinds do, moments where we are “stunned and amazed, feeling [we have] entered into a new life.”—Fred Arroyo, author of Sown in Earth: Essays of Memory and Belonging
Jim Peterson has published three poetry chapbooks and seven full-length collections of poetry, most recently The Horse Who Bears Me Away from Red Hen Press in 2020. His collection, The Owning Stone, won Red Hen’s Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award in 1999. His poems have been published in more than eighty journals, including Georgia Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, and South Dakota Review. His novel, Paper Crown, was published by Red Hen in 2005 and is now available on Audible. His stories have appeared in such journals as Los Angeles Review, South Dakota Review, and Laurel Review. Several of his plays have won regional awards and have been produced in college and regional theaters; The Shadow Adjuster was published by Palmetto Play Service in 1997. Peterson was Coordinator of Creative Writing and Writer in Residence for many years at Randolph College in Virginia. He is currently on the faculty at the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Low-Res MFA Program in Creative Writing. He lives with his charismatic corgi, Mama Kilya, in Lynchburg, Virginia.