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﷯RICHARD JESPERS
My Long-Playing Records and Other Stories FICTION CreateSpace, November 2013, 978-1500372323, trade paper, 288 pp., $14.95 Reviewed by Barbara Brannon The five-and-ten pieces in this treasury transport you, as the best stories always do, on brief visits to other times and places—in the company of fascinating people of varying ages and situations. Richard Jespers knows just how to capture a zeitgeist moment in telling detail, without sentimentality. Whether it’s the recent era of hyphy car stunts in “Ghost Riders,” a privileged youngster’s recollection of a luxurious Italian cruise in “Men at Sea,” or the long, graceful arc of a glamorous old movie house in “Tales of the Millerettes,” each story takes us precisely to a scene on the verge of change. The point-of-view characters might be male or female; children in memory or in the narrative’s current time, teenagers (“Snarked”) or later in life (“Killing Lorenzo,” “Bathed in Pink”); struggling with sexual identity or marital fidelity (“My Long-Playing Records”); handicapped or gifted; but each follows a strong moral compass. With deft strokes and a keen awareness of popular culture past and present, the author invites us into authentic lives and subtly guides us to thought-provoking questions, a gift I’ve always appreciated in top-shelf magazine fiction. The mix of numbers in Jespers’ collection is sophisticated, urbane, surprising. Perhaps my favorite cuts are “A Certain Kind of Mischief,” a boy’s coming-of-age story I had the privilege of witnessing through various stages of revision, and “Basketball Is Not a Drug,” a clever trope played in the convincingly winning voice of a middle-aged man. Listen to these stories as you would your favorite classic vinyl: taken as a whole or as separate tracks, they’ll reward your attention on multiple levels, again and again. 

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