The Farther Shore

Chico State English professor Rob Davidson’s collection of short stories, The Farther Shore, recently put out by local publisher Bear Star Press, is everything you hope for (but sometimes don’t get) in a locally produced work: It’s good. Really good. Davidson’s often-humorous and finely crafted stories grab the reader’s attention from the get-go and keep her or him utterly engaged until the end with the twists and turns of the characters’ lives—some familiar (having babies, aspiring to be a successful musician), some more exotic (being the doting father of an angry thug on a remote island in the Caribbean). He has a talent for opening lines: “There is something wrong with the baby” (from “Terminations"), or “Nestled near the tip of the comma that is the Eastern Caribbean, the island of Carriacou is an isolated place, small and quiet: a land of five thousand people and ten thousand goats” (from the highly entertaining and insightful “Criminals").

References to Chico and other places one imagines Davidson has lived pop up throughout, as do references to many things to do with the world of academia. But, contrary to what one might fear, such seeming mundaneness is never boring in Davidson’s hands. In fact, his keen eye for observation might even be called “Sedaris-esque.”