Author: Ray Sikes
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 1-4505-6169-1

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The first twelve stories in this volume, though containing elements of the author’s own childhood and teenage perceptions and experiences, are, nevertheless, fictional. With an inherent distrust of biographies, fiction is the only medium that Sikes considers to be authentic enough to relay most of the truth about life. As he writes in the “Afterward: Telling Stories”, “the act of reducing a life to book length makes the person seem much more interesting than he or she actually was, and once the events are recreated and twisted with commentary and description, what’s there isn’t really accurate.” Sikes’ concern with the truth has led him to prefer writing fiction to rehashing his own personal reality as a form of renegotiating the truth. To Sikes, fiction contains “enlightening hints at universal truths…[and]…insights about people and life in general.” In such vein, he invites one to read his collection of short stories, Life in the Cathode Ray Glow: Stories about Growing Up in the ’60s and ’70s and Other Fiction.
 
Reminiscent of Bill Bryson’s finest, the first twelve tales in the volume are amusing, insightful and true to life. All of them have some trenchant point to relate and leave one thinking more deeply about some aspect of our human existence, though they are in no way preachy. The deeper meaning of one’s experiences is brought home without hitting one over the head with gospel truth. In fact, it came as quite a surprise to me that Sikes had already written an acclaimed spiritual non-fiction book called Keeping it Between the Ditches: Living the Christian Life.
Provocative and stimulating are two words that I would definitely choose to use in reference to his latest collection.

 
The narrator of the first twelve tales appears to be the same young lad, whose fictional experiences reveal not only interesting aspects of those whom he encounters, but also a solid upbringing in an ethically sound home. They are enough to make one long once more to revel in the childhood encounters of yesteryear. The other five tales are told from a variety of viewpoints, and are more stream-of-consciousness and character sketches than the conventional sharp and slick beginning—middle—end of the traditional short story. No matter the protagonists or the setting, though, this collection is well worth reading and thinking about.
 
Sikes is a prolific writer, having had many of his short stories, essays, and poems published in a variety of publications and webzines, such as USA Today, The Wilmington (Delaware) News Journal, Out and About, Poor Mojo’s Almanac, Cornerstone, Focus on Teachers, and The Nazarene Standard. No matter your age, you should find something about which to reflect in his writings. Sikes’ honesty and integrity shine out from these pages, and are most refreshing in these days of over-the-top hype and gutless mudslinging. Do read him—he’s well worth it.    


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