The History of the Baker’s Dozen

Gary Fincke

The History of the Baker's Dozen, as the title suggests, bristles with stories full of excess and want. In Albatross, a beautiful former lifeguard, at a class reunion, confesses her ongoing wish to rescue a boy who drowned on her watch. In the title story, a baker, despite the number of doughnuts he adds to each dozen, cannot satisfy his customers. Extant’s aging married couple long for a renewal of desire in a house formerly owned by a well-known pornographer. An underprivileged college student, in Beauty, earns a supplemental income by exploiting customers who fantasize about photographs of her sexualized feet.
What an otherwise wide variety of characters share is a struggle with satisfaction. No matter the situation, from coming-of-age to mid-life to old age, the desire for more is ever-present. By turns, these engaging characters deal with anger, frustration, sexual desire, cultural shifts, work issues, and an assortment of other common issues deepened and made singular, even in these very short stories, by close precise observation. 

“In this exhilarating and masterful collection, Gary Fincke proves himself to be, again, the king of the short-short form. The History of the Baker’s Dozen showcases a range of strange settings and sneaky characters. Fathers leave out money to entice their children to steal. A man, trying to buy himself a short bereavement vacation, publishes an obituary for his living mother, but insists, once he’s busted, that his mother will recognize the obituary as a clumsy gesture of love. In the collection’s most harrowing story, a father stalks and terrorizes his estranged family. Gary Fincke’s characters are desperate to secure safe spaces, even if those are isolated bunkers with no electricity or water. At once heart-breaking and funny, tender and scary, The History of the Baker’s Dozen is a remarkably versatile story collection. I love this book.” Kim Magowan, editor of Pithead Chapel

“Gary Fincke’s short stories feel like bottles of the best wine. A few perfectly chosen details breathe decades of life into every character. This collection moved me more times than I could count.” James Tate Hill, editor of Monkey Bicycle

“The stories in Gary Fincke’s collection cut straight to the marrow with chilling starkness. They take us through a dark history of humanity and our hearts. Whether Sunday school children putting on a play about Exodus, or the tragedy of an electrocuted bear dominating the news, each tale provides a connective tissue to a different part of our psyche. Fincke’s words are both illuminating and demanding. His prose is concise yet conjures sharp imagery. No syllable is wasted. His narratives flow effortlessly between friction and harmony.” Brett Pribble, editor of Ghost Parachute

Since its inception, Gary Fincke has been co-editor (with Meg Pokrass) of the annual anthology Best Microfiction. His books have won the Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Fiction, The Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Nonfiction Prose, and what is now the Wheeler Prize for Poetry. His latest book is a memoir-in-essays The Mayan Syndrome (Madhat Press, 2023). Besides having work chosen to appear in Best American Essays 2020 and Best Small Fictions 2020, he has recently published flash fiction at such sites as Craft, Wigleaf, Vestal Review, Atticus Review, Fractured Lit, Ghost Parachute, Pithead Chapel, New World Writing, and Flash Boulevard.