Published in 2002, Touch Wood is Joe Ashby Porter’s third collection of short stories. Set across a broad range of locations, from Key West to Alaska to the Mediterranean, these 10 tales also vary widely in structure and subject: The whimsical and humorous “A Man Wanted To Buy a Cat” chronicles a man’s fixation on purchasing a particular cat, while “Icehouse Burgess” stars a man who dons “invisible disguises” and ends up living under a bridge in France with a dog named Oh-oh. But whether traditionally or exotically structured, all the stories bear the mark of Porter’s dense, sometimes challenging language and wry humor. Intriguing, charming, and sometimes startling, the stories and characters that populate Touch Wood make for memorable and thought-provoking reading.
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• Austin Chronicle, 1/24/03
Against Despair: A Set of Approaches Toward an Initial Critical Appreciation of the Fictions of Joe Ashby Porter—a critical essay by James Tierney