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These Footprints in Wet Cement are just that: stories some experienced, some homespun, some dredged from the fertile detritus of dreams; impressions gathered and ruminations fermented over the past decade or so—the fleeting imprint of a life left to harden in the tenuous mold of language. Straddling the tenuous borderline between the narrative and the poetic, they are all the product of a pressed aesthetic.

To borrow from the foreword: “An atom of matter is all it takes to make a pretty big bang. E = mc2, the concise epic of the 20th Century, is three letters and a single digit long. The same impatient age that spawned the transistor and the computer chip, the acronym and the one-minute commercial, the information bit, the sound bite, the photo op, and the tweet, also contrived its own narrative form—call it short short, sudden or flash fiction, call it a story in a hurry, or a poem exploding its corset. Bastard child of the prose poem and the wise crack, illegitimate heir to the parable and the allegory, this mongrel darling was raised on a diet of the coarse and the cunning, brash big city bus bumper and subway ads, political campaign promises, dream fragments, one-liners, and over-the-counter painkiller packaging copy. Ever anxious for a quick fix of meaning, posing now as a poem, now as a story, it steals its strength from legitimate forms only to sabotage any underpinnings of legitimacy. Style and length vary with each narrative according to its needs. Soon enough, tomorrow maybe, it will be categorized, neutered and defanged for popular consumption and the college curriculum. But for the moment it is still as slippery as footprints in wet cement.”


“Peter Wortsman’s compressed fictions strike swift and hard, like a good Zen whack that awakens enlightenment. But their power comes not so much from the moment of impact as from the reverberations that fill the spaces that follow. They make me think of Lew Welch: “I saw myself a ring of bone in the clear stream of all of it,” the poet wrote, “and then heard ‘ring of bone’ where ring is what a bell does.” In Footprints in Wet Cement, Wortsman has magically grabbed that ring.”Tom Christensen, author of 1616: The World in Motion, former editor-in-chief of Mercury House publishers and former editor at North Point Press

“In these delicious short (often very short) stories, Peter Wortsman crosses Kafkaesque absurdity with Chekhovian realism, fairy-tale and fable with everyday journal entry. A master of the telling detail, Wortsman is one of those rare writers upon whom nothing, as Henry James put it, is ever lost. The slightest incident can be seen to contain magic, an absurd TV commercial can prompt the most erotic of fantasies: it’s all in a day’s (or rather a night’s) work and usually momentary. FOOTPRINTS IN WET CEMENT is a book to be kept on the bedside table: open anywhere at any time and you will be completely captivated.”Marjorie Perloff, Florence R. Scott Professor of English Emerita at the University of Southern California, Distinguished Literary Scholar and Critic


Dubbed “a 20th-century Brother Grimm” (Bloomsbury Review) and “a delinquent Hans Christian Andersen” (by playwright Mark O’Donnell), Peter Wortsman is the author of work in multiple modes, including a previous book of short prose fiction, A Modern Way To Die (1991); a travel memoir, Ghost Dance in Berlin, A Rhapsody in Gray (2013); and a novel, Cold Earth Wanderers (2014). He collaborated with artist Harold Wortsman on an artists’ book, it-t=i (2004) and with photographer Jean-Luc Dubin on a photo essay New York, NY 1978 (2016).

He is also the author of two stage plays, The Tattooed Man Tells All (2000) and Burning Words (2006), the latter produced in 2006 by the Hampshire Shakespeare Company, at the Northampton Center for the Arts, in Northampton, Mass., and again in 2014, in German translation, at the Kulturhaus Osterfeld, in Pforzheim, Germany. His short work has been widely anthologized. His travel writing has run in such major newspapers as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and was included five years in a row in The Best Travel Writing, 2008-2012, and again in 2016. He is also a critically acclaimed translator from German into English, including Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, by Robert Musil, now in its third edition (1988, 2005, 2009); Telegrams of the Soul: Selected Prose of Peter Altenberg (2005); Travel Pictures, by Heinrich Heine (2008); Selected Prose of Heinrich von Kleist (2010); Selected Tales of the Brothers Grimm (2013); Tales of the German Imagination, From the Brothers Grimm to Ingeborg Bachmann (2013), an anthology which he also edited and annotated; and Konundrum, Selected Prose of Franz Kafka (2016), among other works.

Recipient of the 1985 Beard’s Fund Short Story Award, the 2008 Geertje Potash-Suhr SCALG-Prosapreis (a prize for short original fiction in German) awarded by the Society for Contemporary American Literature in German, the 2012 Gold Grand Prize for Best Travel Story of the Year in the Solas Awards Competition, and a 2014 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY). He was a former fellow of the Fulbright Foundation (1973), the Thomas J. Watson Foundation (1974), a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin (2010), and a fellow of the Österreichische Gesesellschaft für Literatur (2016).