In the small town where they lived, nothing went unnoticed
In Steve Anderson’s short story collection, adolescents of Small Town, America idly pass the time. Some loiter, others sneak away to the woods, and some seek out mischief wherever they can find it. There’s nothing glamorous or breathtaking about the scenery in 1979, but the characters provide sharp flashes of nostalgia for that awkward, yearning sense of self that all adolescents crave.
With 13 short stories in the collection, 1979 provides a brief glimpse into the breadbasket of America – where the working class are early to bed and early to rise, and their children are just beginning to open their sleepy eyes to feelings of yearning and wanderlust. Steve Anderson’s characters are very young, and they don’t quite understand the chrysalis of emotions surrounding them yet.
In one tale, a young girl considers suicide after learning a devastating family secret. In another, a young boy discovers lust and peer pressure at a KOA campsite. My personal favorite of the collection is titled Dirt Road, and chronicles a stressful and dangerous misadventure between friends Dean and Addie. 16 year-old Addie is a bit of a pyromaniac, but her friend Dean is always there to put out her literal and figurative fires. When Addie drags Dean into a potentially deadly series of activities, Dean must face the very real possibility of getting burned by Addie’s antics.
And this is where Steve Anderson really nails down the adolescent perspective. What looks like risk, stupidity and foolishness to adults is nothing but entertainment to many of these characters. Where the responsible adult brain weighs risk to injury, death, incarceration, and other consequences, the adolescent brain sees a carnival of newness, excitement, and reputation. Psychologically, there’s nothing new here, but the perspective and nostalgia is worth revisiting, as 1979 captures the delicate and curious limbo between childhood and adolescence – that glowing twilight somewhere between the blinding spectrum of adulthood and the quiet shade of innocence.
By Steve Anderson