Little America is for anyone who has ever considered just getting in the car and driving away. Here the ribbon of Western road is a metaphor for the heart's strange longings, providing hard, sometimes hilarious, lessons on the improbability of escape, the possibility of salvation, and the elusiveness of self-knowledge.
In "Yukon River," young lovers with a seedy past risk everything to be purified in the Alaska outback; they encounter instead the ruthless opportunism and alluring corruption of oil boom Fairbanks. In "Suitcase," a modern "Heart of Darkness," the road meanders from California down through impoverished Mexico and then sinks into a deadly Guatemalan jungle where the idealism of an earlier era gently rots. "Roll” starts in a truck on a cliff top in Idaho, one wheel off the edge. "Little America" travels with grifters on the lam who choke up at the sight of an Oregon wheat field at sunrise; later, in Wyoming, they are made solemn by the grandeur of the world's biggest truck stop and pause to ponder: Why would anyone willingly stay in one place?
With deadpan humor, perfect pitch voice, and keen love of place, Simmons's stories illuminate the abiding American desire to "light out" - if not necessarily for something better, at least for something new.
The book is published by The Ohio State University Press.
The Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction.