Next to Nothing: Stories by Keith Banner (Lethe Press, 2015). A Lambda Literary Award finalist.

This is the real Heartland, full of the everyday Americans you will find all around you, should you choose to look and see. These are not the trite buffoons of sitcoms, not the artificial, overwrought white trash inhabitants of “reality television.” These are people with whom you interact in a thousand little ways every day. The manager at Ponderosa. The sketchy family who run the video store beside the McDonald’s. That reminds me: These stories primarily feel set in the nineteen seventies and eighties, but aren’t. This dichotomy comes about because there are no smart phones in these stories. There barely are any cell phones. No computers. No cable television. Then again, there are still pockets of this nation that cell phones barely reach, where unattended land lines often don’t go to answering services or even have answering machines attached, and where people, when asked if they have an email address, are apt to say, “Nah. I don’t fool around with them computers.” Trust me, I ask that question and get that response often, for work. This is that America, rendered with unflinching realism and care.