Don't be fooled by its title: Cake, the debut collection of short stories by Johns Hopkins University senior lecturer Tristan Davies, is anything but confectionary.
Published in October by The Johns Hopkins University Press, Cake takes on life's emotional impasses and turning points, many of which, Davies points out, are served with cake on the side. As such, the title image plays a role in several of the stories.
"There is a lot of cake in Cake," says Davies, director of undergraduate studies for the Writing Seminars program at The Johns Hopkins University, where he also earned his master's degree. "There are two weddings, a number of birthdays, and the anniversary cake in the title story. The title helps pull it all together."
Also linking Cake's 20 stories is a stark look at the modern relationship, its moments of crisis as well as its moments of quiet success. While Davies' tales are at times bittersweet, they are never saccharine. Neither are the stories neatly tied up with string around a white cardboard box — many of the endings leave the true conclusion of the stories up to the reader's imagination.
Davies' characters — a man who splits with his live-in girlfriend only to hook up with "Crazy Yvonne," newlyweds who hit tragedy while honeymooning, a man taken aback by the rude gestures of a mother and daughter at the grocery store, a rich housewife desperate for a new car — often reach sad ends thanks to bad decisions. Readers familiar with the Baltimore area will also appreciate the many local references peppering Davies' stories.
"Tristan Davies' fiction is a cross between John Cheever and Evelyn Waugh, with a bit of F. Scott Fitzgerald joined in," says novelist Stephen Dixon, a professor in the Writing Seminars program. "It's witty, urbane, funny, poignant and sophisticated. He's a writer with a graceful and immediately readable style and an original, spirited, and incisive take on contemporary life. Cake is a strong and impressive literary debut."
"Davies is a damn good writer, possibly one of the best short story writers in contemporary lit," wrote John Lewis in Baltimore magazine. "It's impossible to ignore a writer who's so poignant and poetic. Davies' wit and sophistication are just icing on the cake."
Davies' work has appeared in the literary journals Glimmer Train, Boulevard, The Mississippi Review, The Columbia Review, Snowflake and Sundog. In 2001, Davies received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association. To speak with Tristan Davies, contact Amy Cowles at 410-516-7160.
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