Local Music

Published Date: December 31, 2013


A man who can’t bring himself to return to the apartment of his failing marriage, a woman spied on by a neighbor, a father terrified by the four-year- old next door, a boy living in a house haunted by his mother’s madness, a mother whose children are freezing in a heatless bedroom–the characters in the Stories of Local Music are unsettled in their own homes, their lives dissonant and discordant.


In Local Music, Cummins writes about love in all its dangerous permutations, its complements and contraries, its triangles and traps, bright sides and undersides—and he does so in a prose so clean that the page disappears and the stories play like movies in the mind. His characters are rendered with such authenticity, so nuanced, that you’d swear they’re related to you; he captures the subtle turns that render attachment, and its attendant, nearly macabre unkindnesses, visible and unforgettable. The music in Local Music? In Cummins, love is the local music, its rapture and calamity, abrasion and improvisation, the brilliant local music of what makes love love.

—Renée Ashley, prize-winning author of The Revisionist’s Dream, The Various Reasons of Light, Salt, and Someplace Like This

The stories in Local Music are spare, beautifully written, and always haunting—in the best sense. Walter Cummins’s characters are ambushed by the circumstances of their lives. They struggle with anger, loneliness, and disappointment, and sometimes stumble into joy. This is a startling and expertly crafted collection. The stories stayed with me long after I finished this powerful book.

—Ronna Wineberg, author of Second Language, winner of the Many Voices Project

Local Music is a stunning panorama of the human species, with its many oddities, aspirations, frustrations, anguishes, and hopes.

—Jack Smith, Co-editor, The Green Hills Literary Lantern <

The stories in Local Music limn the secret self’s perverse longings and superstitions, as they uncover the alienation wrought by those mysteries. Cummins’ insight into his characters is revelatory, his prose sharp and devastating. These are memorable, moving stories, full of satisfying surprises and beautiful strangeness.

—René Steinke, author of The Fires and Holy Skirts, a 2005 National Book Awards finalist

In Local Music, his third collection of short fiction, Walter Cummins once again conjures up luminous prose to plot what drives his lively cast of anti-heroes and anti-heroines through life. In story after story his characters are on the move, sometimes physically and sometimes metaphorically, trying to escape from each other and even from themselves; their world may seem poised to come crashing down about them, yet they soldier doggedly on. Don’t look for happy Hollywood endings here; traveling as they do through a bleak landscape, and coping as they go, Walter Cummins’ protagonists have to create their own sunshine. Seventeen stories to ponder, one at a time.

—Victor Rangel-Ribeiro, author of Loving Ayesha and Tivolem, winner of the Milkweed Prize for Fiction

About the Author

Walter CumminsWalter Cummins has published five other short story collections-Witness, Where We Live, Local Music, The End of the Circle, The Lost Ones, and Habitat: stories of bent realism. More than 100 of his stories, as well as memoirs, essays, and reviews, have appeared in magazines such as Kansas Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, Under the Sun, Confrontation, Bellevue Literary Review, Connecticut Review, The Laurel Review, Other Voices, Georgetown Review, Contrary, Sonora Review, Abiko Quarterly, Weber Studies, Midwest Quarterly, West Branch, South Carolina Review, Crosscurrents, Crescent Review, The MacGuffin, in book collections, and on the Web. With Thomas E. Kennedy, he is co-publisher of Serving House Books, an outlet for novels, story collections, poetry, and essays. For more than twenty years, he was editor of The Literary Review. He teaches in Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program.

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