Impossible Appetites

Winner of the 1980 Iowa Short Fiction Award

Powered by Google
Get permissions
166 pp

"The best of these nine highly crafted stories are tender portraits of solitary men whose sensitivity brings them both 'comfort and grief.' James Fetler knows how to evoke character—with strong, delicate images and precise dialogue—so that his people remain with us long after his stories end."—Los Angeles Times

"…[These stories] are about old-world characters with names like Wachtmann and Quaile whose best friends are pets. The most impressive pieces are those drawn from Joseph Quaile's journals, which follow him through a bad marriage and his subsequent struggle for a new life…Fetler has created a luminous and warm artistic work of high order."—Library Journal

"Fetler is a careful writer—sensitive, disciplined…the writing is true. You don't get the feeling he's straining for effect, pressing for this detachment. This is a saving grace. In fact, the writing seems often relaxed. It may be this is the way he gets the resonance which pervades his work. You also, at once, sense his confidence in himself. This uncanny combination is not only intriguing but refreshing. You become curious and begin reading more carefully, in order to find out, if you can, how he works it all out—his kind of uncomplex wizardry. You never really do, of course, but it makes for compelling reading. Watch for more individualistic fiction from this writer—James Fetler."—New Letters

The collection of nine stories which won the 1980 Iowa Short Fiction Award is woven in a pattern so subtle that reading it is like writing your own nine-part novel. The author allows brief glimpses into the tormented journals of Joseph Quaile, a man of acute compassions and consuming hungers, then juxtaposes them with the fiction Quaile writes to scourge his demons and come to terms with himself and the people he loves. This is a dispassionate intelligence in passionate pursuit of freedom and reconciliation.