I Remember Clifford and Other Stories by Mark Craemer
An older man imparts wisdom to a young boy he discovers shoplifting in a grocery store leading to an act that may prove to be life-altering. Two friends in their mid-twenties living on the Oregon coast wrestle with what happens when one abruptly leaves town due to a misunderstanding and the impact that has on relationships. A young couple embraces the romantic beauty of an evening in Prague while increasing paranoia over surveillance reveals a secret that may ultimately bring them closer together. A jazz trumpet player in Chicago reaches a crossroads in his pursuit of finding and then staying true to his own voice. Tragedy strikes during a mountain climbing adventure that brings about a reckoning with the consequences of holding back from dealing with sadness. The unique perspective of synesthesia adds to the mounting challenges of an overly educated and socially isolated man working at the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Boston, who is desperately trying to hold it together and find connection with another human being. These and other stories make up this collection exploring identity, the loss of a father, finding one’s voice, and feeling and processing emotions, especially around grief.
- In “I Remember Clifford” Mark Craemer strikes a nice balance of emotions between fathers and sons, mentors, and strangers in this well-crafted set of compact short stories. He explores our sense of connectedness, loss, isolation, grief, and hope through his personal experiences. Included with his prose are warm Illustrations set in sienna tones and author’s notes, all neatly tied together in this thoughtful collection. I read it recently while on a long flight. It was somehow refreshing re-connecting with my own emotions through these stories while confined to my seat and masked. The stark difference in setting and what I was reading made clearer and more poignant the need to recognize my own defenses and vulnerabilities – to appreciate our collective humanity, and to embrace it with humility, warmth, and civility.
- The stories in this collection take on jazz, mountain climbing, synesthesia, parenting, to name a few topics, but running under all of them is a continuing exploration of what it means to be a man, and particularly what it means to be a man in a world of cultural expectations and emotions. Should a boy cry? Should a man? How can he be fully present in the world and in his relationships? It’s fascinating to watch Craemer come at the topic from many different angles. And then, he does something really interesting — after each story is an Author’s Note, describing both the process and the intent of each story. It’s a look inside the author’s mind that is both intriguing and illuminating. I wonder what would happen if all authors started being this open.
- With sensitivity and poignancy, Craemer invites his readers into the lives and personal stories of people from all walks of life as they struggle and triumph in their own unique ways. The author also shares a behind the scenes view into his own personal process while writing each story. This willingness to share his “head and heart” process of writing added a depth to this collection of short stories that deepened the reading experience. For me, the stories in this compilation were a healing balm, bringing me back in touch with the kindness and vulnerabilities of what it means to be truly human.
Mark Craemer is a leadership coach and organization development consultant. His first book, Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace, was published in 2020. This is his first book of fiction.