True Fiction, Short Stories by
By Sohrab Homi Fracis
Review by Roy Peak
Sohrab Homi Fracis was born and raised in India, moving to America to become a systems analyst, before abandoning that idea entirely to teach literature and creative writing. He has won several writing awards, and this is his third book of fiction.
A couple of these stories are set in Fracis' own Florida neighborhood, and as someone who lives in the same side of this same town, I will say he hits the nail squarely on the head. The gentrification, the tattooed millennials, LARPers, the small shops, and duck ponds, are all given honest appraisals and pass muster. I can't say how much of these "fictions" are "true" but they definitely come off as natural and utterly convincing. It's kind of fun reading stories set in very familiar settings such as these, and it's extremely possible that I've encountered a few of the same folks he’s based his characters on.
Take "Open Mic" for instance. Our narrator regales us with the happenings at a small coffee shop and it's regulars. Open Mics are fairly common events the world over, yet Fracis bases his on one that was open for a short time in arguably the trendiest side of town. This story sets the tone for what's to become, steeping the rest of the book in a "real" place, a distinct period of time. All writers steal ideas from their own lives, their friends, lovers, family, acquaintances. It's part of the job. The best of writers spin their tales in such ways that even the people who inspired them can't pick themselves out of a story, yet every reader sees themself laid bare.
In "All Right, Now, Cupid" Fracis takes the template of an online dating questionnaire and infuses it with much more than it was intended. He's talking to himself throughout as much as a would be mate, and finds a way to tell a story of hope and longing. He mentions not liking Birdman, the 2014 film starring Michael Keaton, yet uses it as a reference point throughout which to help frame his narrative. Nice touch. (Personally, I had to force myself to finish Birdman, I disliked it so much.) Framing this narrative is an anecdote he relates about a blind man walking down the street. Our narrator is so intrigued with a woman helping the man out that he parks illegally and follows them for blocks just to see where their "date" ends up. Now most writers trying to pull off a three-thousand word story that's influenced by this many disparate events would give up, yet Fracis pulls it off gracefully, keeping it simple and focused.
In the title story, "True Fiction," one of the narrator’s oldest friends chides him on his storytelling, giving him unwanted advice.
"A Coming" feels right at home on this website with it's tale of a "plain fairy" and her not so plain life.
"Steven" is a fantasy story of shifting genders, that reminds me of Julia Slavin as Fracis has the foresight to keep the story steeped in domestic reality, which makes the fantasy parts that much more outrageous.
The remainder of the stories range from experiments in language, poetry, and historic fantasy, giving True Fiction a more diverse feel than the standard short story collection. Fracis is a true stylist, crafting his tales in many ways, yet keeping his own pure voice throughout, and I admire the fact that he's not at all afraid to get meta or break that fourth wall at times. Being fearless is what sets some writers apart from the pack.
Sacred Chickens reviewed Fracis' last book Go Home, and we are happy that he is continuing to produce more imaginative fiction.
True Fiction is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and more as a paperback.
Roy Peak has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville. Roy writes music reviews for the Rocking Magpie among others.