Courtesy Sorry House Press

Richard Chiem’s Ahead-of-Its-Time Short Story Collection Returns

A new and improved edition of 2013’s “You Private Person” meets a more ready world.

Almost exactly four years ago, I reviewed Seattle author Richard Chiem’s short story collection, You Private Person. I request that you don’t look up the review. It’s not bad, exactly, but I clearly didn’t understand the book very well. I blabbed for a while, failed to find a point and then concluded the review having said exactly nothing. (Pro tip: When a reviewer opens a piece raving about the beauty of an author’s sentences, that reviewer is probably pushing up against a deadline and can’t figure out what else to say.) It always bugged me a little that I couldn’t get my arms around Chiem’s book.

Book reviewers don’t generally get second chances. At around the same time a book lands on the new release table at local independent bookstores, we read it and review it, and then we move on. I don’t often double-dip. Books, after all, don’t change; part of the reason we love them is that they stay the same, even as we grow and deteriorate. Just because you slap a new cover on a book doesn’t make it new, right?

But here comes a lit-crit miracle: Four years after its original release, You Private Person is now published in a brand-new edition by small press Sorry House. But this isn’t just some slap-a-cheap-coat-of-paint-on-it-style rejiggering. This Person is a profoundly cleaned-up edition, refined and improved and maybe more ready for the world (or perhaps vice versa) than in its first incarnation.

Read the rest of this review in Seattle Weekly’s print edition or online here at Seattle Review of Books. Paul Constant is co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read books coverage at

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