Bill Roorbach, of Farmington, has found a nice groove in the world of creative writing over the past three or four decades. He’s won prestigious national honors like the O. Henry Prize (in 2002) and the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction (2001) for his collection of short stories, “Big Bend,” and local honors like the Maine Literary Award for Fiction (2013) and the Maine Prize for Literary Nonfiction (2006). He also held down teaching stints for considerable stretches at the University of Maine at Farmington, Colby College, the Ohio State University, and the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

It’s pretty taxing to teach college and write productively at the same time, but Roorbach came through it with an unusual glow. Since 2009, his Wikipedia page tells us, he’s loosed himself from academia to write full time, and some of the fruits are the novel “The Remedy for Love” and his new collection of short stories, “The Girl of the Lake.”

The latter opens with the curious tale — dancing in the atmospheric range of a fairy tale, actually — “Harbinger Hall,” about a sixth-grade boy who in 1963 cleverly, and cutely naively, contrives a way to dismiss himself from school. The wayward adventures of his permanent hookihood lead to the door of a nearby mansion, mysterious and remote in young Bobby’s ken. He is befriended by the old man who lives there along with a skeptical butler. The man, Mr. D’Arcy, draws Bobby into a game played with maps, which turns into a sort of thousand-and-one-afternoons story in which the old man recounts a series of tragic events that took place during the Russian revolution.

Bobby is fascinated by the game, and the framing narrative of skipping school is soon consumed by Mr. D’Arcy’s story of love and death in Russia. Artfully, lightheartedly interwoven into the story’s 30 pages is the blossoming emotional bond between the old man and the young boy, predictable but nonetheless affecting. It’s a story line you might find somewhere in Ray Bradbury’s mighty corpus of “Dandelion Wine”-like reveries on boyhood, with the same sense of hazy magicality we, many of us, remember of the long-lost age of 12.

The sense of realistic magicalism in “Harbinger Hall” emerges not just from events that live right on the edge of implausible, but also from Roorbach’s unique prose, which skates along like the rush of a hockey game. Once you know the rules, you see that every play at the blue line is on-side, every pass in the narrative is completed, and the profluence of the game has unusual elegance.

The result is atmospheric, to repeat the descriptor, and it characterizes not only “Harbinger Hall” but also other stories like “Kiva,” in which a South Asian American teenager is astonished to find himself sexually beset by three sisters at an archaeological site. In the title story, a teenage boy volunteers to spend his summer taking care of his aged grandmother and is haunted by the apparition of a lovely young woman rising naked from the lake at the family’s island, which he will inherit.

The same near-dreamlike air, expressed breathless sentence after breathless sentence, suffuses even the hyper-realistic story “The Fall,” about a camping trip in western Maine which turns nightmarish, and whose protagonist’s responses are convincingly evoked as simultaneously real and surreal. And “Murder Cottage” is a randily believable sex fantasy on a piece of coastal Maine real estate.

Roorbach’s skating sentences give these stories a quickness that might lead to the suggestion: Here’s some good summer reading. Summer’s just about over, but anyway this is edifying fall or winter afternoon reading, too. Good examples of why Bill Roorbach’s been able to build a productive living in a scrambling profession.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first Thursday of each month. Contact Dana Wilde at [email protected]

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