Rooms: Writers in the Attic, a new collection of short stories and essays from 29 Idaho authors published by local literary hub The Cabin, has a simple concept: Describe a room. It doesn't have to be a particular room, a physical room or even a literal description. It just has to be about a room.
The results are varied.
Some of the pieces are literal in their take, with vivid details about childhood bedrooms or attics or fantastical wine cellars to lose oneself in. After Grove Koger inherits his aunt's house, he revisits the attic that he spent a summer in and finds it far less magical than his memories.
Other authors focus on what took place in the room. "The Unwelcome Guest" by Dee Bowling, describes when a deadly poisonous mamba took up residence in her windowsill.
Some take the tack of describing what the room means to the author or character, such as Heidi Kraay's "A Sacred Connection," which reflects on her teenage bedroom as a place of sanctuary from a world of judgment.
And some see the room as a concept, such as "The Congo Room" by Michael Philley, which treats the room as a place in the mind where memories of war-torn Africa are locked away. That piece is easily one of the best in the collection, not just because of its abstract take on the theme and its nonlinear approach to prose, but because the narrative most effectively carries the story's emotional weight.
Taken individually, some of the tales in Rooms are interesting pieces. But as a whole, especially in succession, they can be a bit wearying.
The shortness and sheer number of pieces makes for a near-constant resetting of the premise. The moment a reader starts to settle into a piece, it's done and they are being given an often identically styled setup, which feels jarring.
The shortness of the pieces also doesn't allow them to develop into much, something which manifests itself in a variety of ways. In "The Interview Room" by Kerry Lindorfer, a piece about a therapist's office is cut off right as it starts to pick up.
The Cabin has said that Writers in the Attic is likely to be a series. If so, it would behoove them to focus on longer, more polished pieces than jamming as many writers as possible into a single anthology.