Cool, elegant, pure, and yet surprisingly eccentric, the thirteen stories in Between the Flags explore contradictions of American experience since World War II. This retrospective of B.H. Friedman's work begins with "As I Am I Will Be," as its central character, Little Boy, faces civilian life after the war. It ends with the title story, in which a nameless man fights for his life against the sea and afterward realizes how little of his identity he carries away. Between these two periods - the forties and the eighties, youth and old age - life stories filled with regret, humor, and subtle complications. They complement the stories collected in Coming Close (1982), also published by Fiction Collective.
Friedman's characters struggle with the ways in which their lives are bounded. The desire to recover the sexual energy of youth propels one character into a confrontation with priapism. An art critic and the painter she made famous nourish and then finally consume each other's talents. In "Whisper," a man cherishes the anonymity that allows him to move freely in his pursuit of "zeros" (money). "Whisper," a prescient parable for the eighties, was expanded into a novel and recommended for a National Book Award by William Gass. Except for "Reunion in Spain," which is published here for the first time, all of these stories appeared previously in distinguished literary magazines.
"Between the Flags, his new volume of uncollected stories, is so energized, it may make you suffer a little. It will also make you laugh, make you think, and encourage you to re-experience its on-target metaphorical tales. As with the artists Friedman has always presented so thoughtfully, he's got his fictional characters just right. You'll find yourself saying, 'Yes, yes!' These people are alive. And if you're a writer, you may also find yourself saying, 'God, I wish I had written that!' " —Budd Schulberg
"These uncollected stories distill what Friedman fans have known all along: the man is way ahead of his time and the work as a whole is larger than its parts. Newcomers will discover that just as his novel Yarborough foretold the advance of the sixties drug culture, so did 'Whisper' (later Whispers) anticipate years before 'the avant-garde went into business' - the Reagan eighties and beyond." —David Michaelis
"These wonderful stories are moving gifts from a writer who consistently and patiently delineates the world as it is. They should be read by everyone who loves fine writing." —Tom Huey
"Whether the narrator is male or female - or young, middle-aged or moving toward a later stage- B.H. Friedman's stories carry conviction. Some are traditional, some innovative; some come from the heart, others from the head. The hidden narrator, the author himself, gives us dimensions of the human psyche granted by time but rarely captured these days in works of fiction." —James McConkey
But the fifties were my season in heaven. Here the best paintings were made, and music played. Here you could get a copy of Adolphe at Walgreen's and find no place to hide among the columns under Lever House. Everything was happening. If only the critics had been driven out of town, tarred and feathered with copies of Art News. Nobody listened to Barney Newman: "Aesthetics is for the artists like ornithology is for the birds."
The sixties will be greater yet. Up, up into the highest cholesterol. Up, up into the highest brow. Fat will be fashionable. Baldness will be fashionable. The moon will continue to be fashionable. There'll be souped-up elevators in office buildings. There'll be souped up office buildings in outer space. All soups will be cool and chic: gazpacho, vichysoisse, infinity. Everyone will have his bowl of infinity. There'll be second helpings of infinity. Just tell the waiter, you want more. The coolness of it all. The endless whispers of it all send endless shivers up my endless spine. Up, up to the ears. I can hardly hear me.
Between the Flags
Between the Flags