As the latest release from Elephant Rock Books - formerly based in Bloomington and now in Connecticut - Stacy Bierlein's new short story collection, A Vacation on the Island of Ex-boyfriends, offers provocative evidence that independent publishing is alive and well.
Bierlein's stories are at once visceral and intelligent, depicting the lives of professional women exploring the vicissitudes of love - or, often more to the point, sex, in and out of the context of love. Bierlein's women seem to be caught in an undercurrent of longing that lustful encounters can never quite satisfy.
But there's something delicious in the trying, and Bierlein captures her protagonists' mid-crisis romantic epiphanies brilliantly. From the vacationing best friends lamenting affairs they can't quite end, shaken from their malaise by a surprise encounter with misogynistic violence, to the screenwriter obsessed with her fussy Hollywood agent/sometime lover, whom she can't quite seem to leave - told in reverse-chronology vignettes - Bierlein's stories are compellingly and artfully written.