short novel do get collected from time to time, they remain difficult things to see into print. Low Fidelity Press, a new little press in Brooklyn, New York, has decided to publish novellas with an edge. The first winner of its first contest is EMU lecturer Stefan Kiesbye, an M.F.A. graduate of the U-M. Kiesbye's beautifully written and deeply troubling novella, Next Door Lived a Girl, seems to present itself as a coming-of-age story. A group of adolescent boys in a bleak German industrial town form their own small gang. They worry about a rival gang, move on their bicycles through the towns and countryside, explore abandoned World War II bunkers that litter the woods, and have the expected sexual fantasies. Kiesbye is particularly good at capturing the uncertain but heightened sensations of the first moves toward intimacy. Here is Moritz, his protagonist, describing the moment just before his first kiss:
My teeth chatter and I can feel every object in the room. The teapot behind me, the posters and stickers, the record-player in my back, everything has come to life. Like someone who hasn't drunk in days and arrives at a well, knowing it's poisoned, I bring my lips closer. Closer I move my shivering lips and drink.
Buried in what might seem a sweet little scene is a clue to Kiesbye's darker vision: the first-time lovers already know that this well is poisoned.