New York. JM Stims new book "Stories 1995-2015" is a fascinating compendium of compelling anecdotes, interviews, and astute coverage of contemporary histories that have been playing out in the world for the last twenty years. In this rich set of experiences, conveyed without affect to the reader, storytelling becomes a kind of historical artifact, easily consumed through the engaging framework of contemporary events.
Stims work presents each city, character and complex subject with a kind of familiarity – there is an obliteration of any formal boundary between the author and his assumed readership: the authors accounts are retold and reframed without the usual ceremonial formality most of us are used to in the arena of non-fiction writing. Stim carefully balances his narrative voice between one which is a newcomer, drinking in new experience with the audacity of a child, and the global, educated reporter, who has accrued enough experience to be sardonic without blinding cynicism.
"Stories 1995-2015" takes places on the edges and outer margins of the centers of our conflicted world: Jerusalem, New York, Berlin, Vienna, Tirana, Tunis, Baghdad, Los Angeles, and the stories are recounted with irrevocable honesty to history. For JM Stim, history itself becomes a story, intricately woven through a rigorous attention to the facts – his work as a journalist and his writing as a thinker converge in this set of stories, and ultimately become an artistic outlet that functions as a cross section of the 21st century. From the unsavory sex workers of Vienna, to the tension and fear of Jerusalem, each story is infused with the thread of the author, his own attitude of openness and skepticism, his ability to transmute experience without bias. In the words of Kundera, "Someone who writes books is either everything (a unique universe in himself and to all others) or nothing For everyone is pained by the thought of disappearing, unheard and unseen, into an indifferent universe, and because of that everyone wants, while there is still time, to turn himself into a universe of words."
JM Stims "Stories 1995-2005" is an index of our turbulent and deeply complex time, but told through the set of universal truths of human nature that unite us, despite the inevitable chasms that continue to grow on our global stage. This is a book for anyone who is engaged with the world today, a must read for those seeking a deeper perspective into the web of places, facts and characters that we are all entrenched in. "Stories 1995-2005" (which at this point is unfortunately only available in German, published by rde Verlag) is a wonderful piece of writing, but also an important contemporary document. It is a set of modern fables, that instead of feeding their reader an easy moral at the end, present us with something profound: a set of new questions.