Appearing beneath the title of Said Sayrafiezadeh’s first collection of stories, “Brief Encounters with the Enemy,” is the subtitle “fiction” — not “stories.” It’s a move by Sayrafiezadeh and his publishing team that recalls a time when authors could publish story collections under titles such as “Bech: A Book” (John Updike) or “Pictures of Fidelman: An Exhibition” (Bernard Malamud). Although “Brief Encounters” shouldn’t be confused for a novel, Sayrafiezadeh’s eight interlinked stories are just as fulfilling as any novel you’re likely to read this summer. Each story delivers the satisfaction of the short form (beginning, middle, epiphany) while disguising itself as a chapter in a larger, thematically inclined arena.
Sayrafiezadeh’s previous book, “When Skateboards Will Be Free,” was a touching memoir about growing up under the roof of the communist Worker’s Party. But more recently he’s been publishing short stories in the New Yorker, where three of these previously appeared.